Based: Cape Town
Tony Leon served as South Africa’s ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, nominated by President Jacob Zuma, from August 2009 to October 2012 . He recently returned to South Africa, and is consulting to business in South America and South Africa, writing a column for Business Day, speaking to various audiences and finishing writing his third book to be published in early 2013 by Pan Macmillan, entitled “The Accidental Ambassador – From Parliament to Patagonia”.
For nearly twenty years Tony Leon has been a Member of Parliament in South Africa, and for thirteen years he led the Democratic Alliance. He is the longest serving Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, since the advent of democracy in April 1994. He led and grew his party from its marginal position on the brink of political extinction into the second largest political force in South Africa.
A trained lawyer, Leon actively participated in the critical constitutional negotiations that led to the birth of a democratic South Africa. He has been at the forefront of national and international events, both as a front-ranking parliamentarian and renowned orator and writer and as a Vice-President of Liberal International. He has addressed many international conferences, institutes and think tanks from the Council on Foreign Relations (Washington DC, and New York City) and the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), London, to the German Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin, the European Parliament in Brussels and to the World Economic Forum in South Africa.
Tony Leon has been widely published in academic journals and in the media and has authored articles for inter alia, Time Magazine, The Spectator, Harvard International Review, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Financial Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph. He has published two books: “Hope and Fear: Reflections of a Democrat” (Jonathan Ball 1998) and the SA bestseller “On the Contrary: Leading the Opposition in a Democratic South Africa” (Jonathan Ball 2008), granted the prestigious Recht Malan Prize for nonfiction that year.
After standing down from the leadership of the opposition in 2007, he was awarded a Fellowship at the Institute of Politics, John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. In 2008 he was invited as a fellow to the Cato Institute in Washington DC, where he published a paper on liberal democracy in Africa
Nelson Mandela said of Tony Leon, on his retirement from political leadership (2007):”your contribution to democracy is enormous, you have more support for all you have done than you might ever read about.”