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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.”