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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Leon, Anthony James (Tony)

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Tony Leon was born on 15 December 1956 and attended Clifton Preparatory School, Durban, and Kearsney College, Botha's Hill, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree and LLB degree from the University of the Witwatersrand which he attended from 1977 to 1982.

While at university he became President of the Law Students' Council and Vice-President of the Students' Representative Council. He became an attorney, and in 1986 a lecturer in the Law Department at the same university.

Leon grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era, when the African National Congress (ANC) and other organisations representing the black majority were illegal. In 1974 he became an organiser for the Progressive Party, then South Africa's only legal opposition party.

In 1986 he was elected to the Johannesburg City Council, where he became Leader of the Opposition. In 1989, he was elected to parliament for the Progressive Party's successor, the Democratic Party (DP), taking over the Houghton constituency from Helen Suzman. He was an advisor to the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) and a delegate to the multi-party negotiations that led to the end of apartheid and the establishment of a multi-party democracy in 1994.

Leon was elected to the first democratic National Assembly. He became Leader of the Democratic Party (DP), then a minor party of white liberals. In 1999, after the second democratic election, when the old National Party (NP) lost most of its support, he became Leader of the Opposition.

Leon has built a high media profile as Opposition Leader, effectively criticising the ANC government of Mandela's successor, President Thabo Mbeki, for failing to deal with South Africa's huge problems of poverty, unemployment and the AIDS epidemic. He has however alienated some of his party's liberal supporters by supporting the death penalty in exceptional circumstances.

At the April 2004 elections, however, the ANC actually increased its vote. Although Leon's Democratic Alliance also increased its vote, it did so at the expense of other opposition parties.

Sources: Gastrow, S. 1995. Who's Who in South African Politics, Number 5. Ravan Press: Johannesburg.

Peter Joyce, A Concise Dictionary of South African Biography (1999). Francolin : Cape Town.

Eds: Phillip van Niekerk & Barbara Ludman: A Z of South African Politics 1999: The Essential Handbook. Penguin Books: Sandton.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.