Furore after Zille ‘airbrushes’ Leon out of DA

2013-04-13 18:08

As DA leader Helen Zille launched a campaign for telling the “untold” story of her party, some have accused her of “airbrushing” her predecessor, Tony Leon, out of this history.

Zille’s speech in Alexandra today to a packed hall – where Leon wasn’t present – mentioned “pioneers” who had fought against apartheid and made the party what it is today.

These include people like former party federal chairperson Joe Seremane, the current chairperson, Wilmot James, Progressive Party MP Helen Suzman, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, Breede Valley Mayor Basil Kivedo, the party’s Eastern Cape organiser, Nosimo Balindlela, and Zille herself.

“People from all political traditions are coming together in the DA because they want to build a constitutional democracy in which every person, whatever the circumstances of their history or birth, has the freedom and the means to live a life they value,” she said.

But political commentator and former activist Rhoda Kadali slammed Zille on Twitter for failing to mention Leon, a close friend.

“Tony Leon is airbrushed out of opposition politics just like Stalin airbrushed people he did not like out of soviet history. Sies!” she tweeted.

This was retweeted by Leon himself.

In another tweet to a DA representative, she said: “Where is Tony who grew that party from 2 to 12 percent! Moegoes!”

Leon could not be reached for comment. He told City Press in an interview on Tuesday that he had lunch with Zille the week before.

In his latest book, The Accidental Ambassador, launched this week, Leon admitted that their relationship had been frosty.

Leon was in Cape Town today to speak to councillors.

Official DA spokespeople could not be immediately reached, but a DA representative who was at the event said Khadali’s criticism was regrettable.

“It was specifically about those who played a key role in the struggle,” he said. He added that Leon was very young at the time.

Another DA leader who was there said the three-month campaign had only just started, and there would be time to celebrate everyone.

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