De Klerk seeks the royal seal of approval: Return to Commonwealth on agenda as Queen meets SA leader for the first time in 32 years

PRESIDENT F W de Klerk met the Queen at Buckingham Palace yesterday, the first South African leader to do so since Hendrick Verwoerd met the Queen in 1961 just before South Africa became a republic and left the Commonwealth.

Then, South Africa was heading down the apartheid cul-de-sac and Mr Verwoerd told the Commonwealth Prime Ministers - who included Harold Macmillan, Jawaharlal Nehru, Robert Menzies, Kwame Nkrumah and Archbishop Makarios - that in light of other members' threat to leave the organisation if South Africa pursued apartheid, he would withdraw South Africa's application to remain in the Commonwealth.

Mr de Klerk was expected to discuss with the Queen South Africa's return to the Commonwealth. At the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Cyprus, it was confirmed that South Africa would be allowed to rejoin the organisation as soon as it had a government elected by universal franchise.

Mr de Klerk has been in London many times, but this was the first time he has been invited to the Palace - the Queen has already met Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress leader. Yesterday's meeting is an indication that South Africa has returned from the cul-de-sac and has been re-accepted among the world's nations.

Mr de Klerk took the opportunity of updating John Major and the Labour leader, John Smith, on the adoption of a new constitution and the setting up of the Transitional Executive Council, which will take South Africa to an election on 27 April.

Where once the visit of a South African leader was accompanied with vigorous anti- apartheid demonstrations and dialogues which sounded like a saw on granite, the feeling here now is that Mr de Klerk is a lame duck who is paying his last visit as head of state and is no longer in control of his country's destiny. Under the new constitution, the leader of the runner-up party or any party which wins 20 per cent of the vote in the election becomes a vice-president. That may be Mr de Klerk's position after next April when Mr Mandela will probably become president, but recent opinion polls have pushed his party into third place behind the right-wing Freedom Alliance. The prospect of the ANC trying to share power with the South African Conservative Party was not a prospect that South African officials wanted to speculate on yesterday.

Perhaps the most important part of Mr de Klerk's visit came last night when he addressed British business people, attempting to reassure them that South Africa's economy would survive the political upheavals of the election and the transfer of power. It is an uphill struggle and there is little possibility of new investment before the election. There is also the 'Africa factor' as a South African official complained recently. 'Businessmen used to say they wouldn't invest in South Africa until apartheid was abolished. Now the same people say they won't invest because they say that with black rule, South Africa will go the same way as the rest of Africa.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + £40K OTE: SThree: Recruitment is a sales role and ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'