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Power lodged in narrow hearts part 3: The Leon Phenomenon

Lack of vision is in, clarity of perspective is out. Sound understanding is out, ecclecticism is in. Not all the fog in Cape Town is as a result of changing weather patterns. Mostly, it is the cause of Tony Leon opening his office window. It envelops everything for kilometres on end across the country and interferes with everything good and honourable. It’s not the fog that bothers me, it’s the ecclectic mind of Tony Leon generating the fog that’s of interest.

There’s nothing in the man’s entire make-up that suggests he’s merely fulfilling the role of a bourgeois opposition politician. He claims to stand in the tradition of those now almost forgotton liberal alternatives to everything that was debased in the apartheid era, but truth is, the rug is pulled from underneath the man’s feet. His and his party’s. The breathlessness with which the ANC embraced the free market path astonished even Leon himself. A closer look at the forces at work responsible for the entire refashioning of the ANC reveals a startling curiosity: the same forces, only much more reactionary and abrasively racist, shaped the misfortunes of the DA and Tony Leon.

Tony Leon (and party leader Zille) now leads an organisation that has nothing to offer South Africa’s poor and middle classes. Not on the level of the economy, for there the ANC outstripped them in being almost more free market than the market itself. The education policies of the DA are shades of grey, i.e. they are cosmetic in difference to that of the ruling party, but will certainly turn the education arena more rapidly into the domain of the privileged par excellence. It is in the area of law and order (oohhh, so Groot Krokodil-ish!) that the drum beating appears to be so radically different. Yet even here, Leon will only use the special body of armed men and women as a battering ram against the poor.

The man’s make-up points to three dismally useless strands. These strands are classical attempts to render life intelligible, but they all have only contributed to strand the ship of humanity on corals in the deep. It is this make-up of the man that forces him to stand arrogantly staring at the wounds he and his company inflicted upon the body of the poor and destitute, shouting, “Heal thyself!” He proposes to deal with the myriad human intricacies with the force and letter of the law; the soul of the country the man wants to uplift with duping and aportioning blame, now to the ANC and its alliances, now to government and the lack of distinction between party and government. The thing that flies in the face of all recent memory is that Leon holds out the flag of political morality, while the very thing his history attests to in South Africa is sullying the very nature political morality cries out for: breaking ranks with capital and the legacy of racial oppression in this country.

Leon leads, with others, the remnants of the old Herstigte National Party, the Conservative Party and an entire legion of rabid racists. The soul of the old regime breathes very much freely within the institutions of the DA Leon co-leads. No. If the Contact Group (“Nothing to draw with…and the well is deep”) has nothing to draw with, someone, please anybody, now is the time to counsel Tony Leon that one must have something to draw with, but there is no need to make people drink out of the bucket, still less to chew the rope…

Ecclectic, the man is. Picture him in Hell’s Kitchen. Great scene. Adds a bit of this, pours in a bit of that, poaching from every cook an ingredient or two. Now for some sardonic advice: mix well, open a large window and throw out the whole bloody mess! Leon and his party will turn South Africa into Hell’s Kitchen.


  • Steven Lamini

    Steven Lamini is a specialist adviser in one of the key policy fields troubling modern-day Europe and works across a range of equality fields, advising on policy and strategic approaches to cohesion. His interests are wide and varied, and he writes on world politics, economic issues, current events, mediocrities and lame-duck presidents of countries. He believes that heads should be enlightened, but somehow regrets having such a stubborn principle, for some heads are rather best chopped off. He lives in York.