Former president FW de Klerk leaves his footprint at Maropeng

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president FW de Klerk was at Maropeng on 29 July 2014 to imprint his footprint, in celebration of the common ancestry of all people alive today.

De Klerk said: “This footprint is a step on a journey towards a better life for all. We all know that this is a never-ending journey …”

He added that we should continue to strive for a situation when all South Africans are totally fulfilled and completely educated.

De Klerk said he was still a “Westrander” at heart, having been brought up in Krugersdorp, and added on a light note how he recalled vividly coming to the Sterkfontein Caves with his brother and friends some 65 years ago.

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site has collected footprints of Nobel Prize laureates and heads of state since 2002, when Thabo Mbeki (South African president from 1999 to 2008) and Kofi Annan (secretary-general of the United Nations from 1999 to 2006, and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize laureate) initiated the tradition.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Václav Klaus, the former president of the Czech Republic (2003 to 2013), have also donated their footprints.

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Sidney Brenner, Peter Agre and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are also in this elite group. The handprint of Nelson Mandela also forms part of this impressive collection at Maropeng.

The story of De Klerk is intimately intertwined with that of Mandela. On 20 September 1989 he was inaugurated as State President and held that office until 9 May 1994. On 2 February 1990 he announced initiatives, including the release of Nelson Mandela, that paved the way to constitutional negotiations.

During the subsequent years of his presidency, he and other leaders (most notably Mandela) helped manage the process that led to South Africa’s first fully democratic elections on 27 April 1994.

De Klerk went on to serve as one of Mandela’s deputy presidents in the Government of National Unity from 10 May 1994 to 30 June 1996.

In 1993 De Klerk and Mandela were joint recipients of the Nobel Prize for Peace, indicative of the world’s joy at a peaceful transition from minority rule to a fully-fledged democracy.

Professor Lee Berger, of the University of the Witwatersrand, said that the two-and-a-half decades he had spent in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site had been a life-changing experience, and he was honoured to thank De Klerk for contributing his footprint to this esteemed collection.

Dawn Robertson, CEO of the Gauteng Tourism Authority and of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, also thanked De Klerk for his support and urged him to encourage other Nobel laureates and heads of state to contribute to the footprint project. She added that the government has recently pledged a further R20-million to continued improvements at Maropeng and in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

As far as leaving his footprint at Maropeng is concerned, De Klerk said: “It is a fabulous honour for me to leave my footprint here today. The journey which we take is never-ending … I was fated to take the huge step of ending apartheid. It was a step which I took knowingly, willingly and proudly. Today, I am taking a step further than this … I am doing this not to be presumptuous, but in all humility, as a member of the most extraordinary species, the human being … I am taking this step as a commitment to a united and prosperous future for South Africa, and for all Africans, and for every person on this planet.”