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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 16:24 GMT
Profile: Marike de Klerk
Marika and FW de Klerk in Pretoria
Mrs de Klerk would forgive him "70 times seven"
Marike de Klerk, who has been killed at the age of 64, was married to former South African President FW de Klerk for 39 years. They divorced in 1998.

She was the country's first lady from 1989 to 1994, the period during which Mr de Klerk released the African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela from prison and dismantled the country's apartheid system.

Born Marike Willemse, Mrs de Klerk met the former president at Potchefstroom University, from where Mr de Klerk graduated with a law degree in 1958.


He whispered: 'I'm certain about my decision - stop hoping'

Marike de Klerk
The couple married shortly afterwards and had three children, Jan, Willem and Susan.

Marike de Klerk was politically active herself, leading the women's wing of the National Party, of which Mr de Klerk became leader in 1989.

But she has become known more recently for her emotional public statements about the breakdown of her marriage.

Divorce

A week after it ended, Mr de Klerk married his mistress, Elita Giorgiades, who herself had been married for 27 years to Greek shipping tycoon Tony Georgiades.

The two couples are thought to have been introduced in the 1980s by former National Party Cabinet Minister Dawie de Villiers.

Marike and FW de Clerk at the former president's inauguration
The couple were married for 39 years
The relationship between Mr de Klerk and Mrs Georgiades apparently moved beyond friendship during a Mediterranean cruise in July 1994.

In her emotional biography, Marike: A Journey Through Summer and Winter, ghost-written by Maretha Maartens, the former first lady described the closing chapter of the couple's marriage.

Of the day the former president left, she wrote:

"He walked to the front door with his suitcases and we stretched out our arms to one another, hugged one another and shook like reeds in the north wind.

"He cried, so did I. I told him: 'If you change your mind, I'll forgive everything - up to 70 times seven.'

"... He whispered: 'I'm certain about my decision. Stop hoping.'"

Second engagement

In July 1999, the South African businessman Johan Koekemoer, then aged 49, proposed to Mrs de Klerk.

But within hours of the announcement of the engagement, Mr Koekemoer became mired in financial scandal.

The marriage never took place and Mrs de Klerk reportedly told the press she wanted to "disappear into the sunset, disappear from the public eye".

The former first lady battled depression for the later years of her life and is thought to have undergone treatment for the illness shortly before she died.

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The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"Police are saying they do not think she was murdered by someone known to her"
See also:

05 Dec 01 | Africa
Former SA first lady murdered
20 Jan 99 | Africa
De Klerk's memoirs stir passions
30 Oct 98 | Truth and Reconciliation
FW de Klerk: Overseer of transition
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