tony leon experiment

The Tony Leon ‘experiment’: DA ignores racially charged outrage

Published by Andile Sicetsha

Tony Leon embodies the ethos of the DA, an organisation he built into a fierce opposition party under the immense popularity of the ANC in former president Nelson Mandela’s era.

Tony Leon scoffs outrage over Maimane experiment

Today, the former leader, who waves the blue flag of South Africa’s official opposition from the bleachers, is an unapologetic voice in the polarising topic of race relations.

The minority champions Leon as a vessel of this democracy’s ‘oppressed’. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is revered by many for his uncensored disregard for the nuanced discourse around ‘white’ privilege and systemic racism apartheid indoctrinated in our society for almost a century.

Recently, Leon came under fire when a quote from an interview he did with News24 went viral. In the conversation with journalist James de Villiers, the former DA leader, whose new book Future Tense: Reflections on my Troubled Land recently hit the shelves, ruffled feathers when he described Mmusi Maimane’s tenure as “an experiment that went wrong, as Mmusi had never committed to the party’s ideals before he joined it.”

In his attempt to explain the meaning behind his words, Leon scoffed this off as fake outrage. The 64-year-old claimed, in an interview with Newzroom Afrika, he merely meant that Maimane’s rapid ascension to the helm of the party without ticking all the boxes was unprecedented for the DA.

“It was a matter of fact that Mmusi had never voted for the DA in the two elections he could vote after 1994. He voted against the DA — or the DP — in those elections. And, on the day that he arrived in Parliament as a newly sworn-in member, he was immediately appointed leader of the opposition and the Parliamentary DA caucus,” he explained.

Maimane responds to Leon: ‘This is South Africa’s reality’

This, according to Leon, was the first time a party representative was ushered into the helm of power “on the day he arrived in Parliament.”

In a clear showing of his political prowess, Leon expanded on the controversial quote without denying the fundamental question that divided opinion on social media: Was Maimane a ‘black’ experiment?

Maimane, who recently broke his silence about his highly publicised exit from the DA had a few words for Leon after his quote — taken out of context or not — went viral.

“The project of dehumanising is certainly one that is historic. I was offended and found the comments offensive but somehow not surprising because this is something not unique in this instance.

“It is something that happens to many South Africans whether you are in the corporate space (or not),” he said in an interview with SABC News.

DA turns a blind eye on Leon’s boggling quote

Once again thrust into a row for its perceived conservative views, the DA has turned a blind eye to the hotly contested topic. DA federal leader John Steenhuisen has made no attempts to reassure South Africans about the party’s position on Leon’s comments.

Furthermore, firebrand figures within the party who are often vocal on social media have opted for cryptic tweets which — when closely inspected — could suggest they support Leon’s unapologetic stance on the issue.

On the other hand, some political leaders within the DA have called on Leon to further substantiate his thoughts on what he said.

“Tony Leon must explain what he means by ‘an experiment gone wrong.’ Obviously, some of us are asking what that means,” Western Cape leader Bongani Madikizela said.

Leon has not moved from his defence, Instead, he has used this furore to promote his book.