Opposition power has decreased - Leon

2013-01-24 07:40

Johannesburg - Opposition strength in South Africa has decreased compared to 1994, former Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said on Wednesday.

"Although the overall opposition strength today is slightly less than it was back then [when two provinces were outside ANC control], the opposition terrain today itself incontestably belongs to the DA and the wind seems set fair for a resounding electoral performance next year."

In a speech in Johannesburg, Leon said the last election revealed that the DA had unchallenged support among minority voters.

"The last census showed that this is a reducing bloc of supporters. The key dilemma [and it is not new, incidentally, only more urgent] is how to grow the party in a new market where the majority lives and votes, while retaining faith with core values and old voters."

Black voters

He said in order to attract more votes from black South Africans the DA had to close the distance between itself and the majority.

"Something which has far more to do with tone, familiarity, identity and other intangibles and less to do with objective policy propositions.

"But there will be a temptation to soft-pedal certain propositions in order not to scare off new potential voters."

He said the DA could not be just a patronage machine providing a "catch all" - scooping up every shade of disaffected government supporter, from alienated Marxists to losers in the government procurement stakes.

"Obviously politics is crucially about numbers. But as the party grows and as some outsize personalities, some carrying a great deal of baggage around with them indeed, are attracted to its ranks, just be sure that the welcome mat is also marked with some clear red lines which new and old recruits only cross at their peril."

Leon was the leader of the DA from 1999-2007. Although still a member of the DA, he served as the South African ambassador to Argentina under the ANC government from 2009 to 2012.

  • gary.guy.507 - 2013-01-24 08:08

    He is simply one of the sharpest politcal minds this country has had for a long time.

      utopian.idealist - 2013-01-24 08:44

      You're so right, Tony turned down a cabinet position offered to him on a plate by then president Mandela because he realized that a strong opposition was more important to SA than personal political gain. This was at the same time when people like Martinus van Schalkwyk were selling out.

      ClassWarTrotsky - 2013-01-24 08:58

      ...and then took an ambassadorial post, in the same government his principles would not allow him to take a cabinet post in.

      ClassWarTrotsky - 2013-01-24 09:19

      @ssmonareng Correct. Some of the comments from the Blue T Shirt brigade that pop up on these News24 stories are insanely racist, often bringing the ANC, race etc into the most arbitrary of unrelated posts. Maybe if the DA supporters stopped acting like they are khaki wearing Volkstaters they may make some inroads.

  • UNITY - 2013-01-24 08:08

    Maybe change the face of the DA? It looks like an all women party leadership? not a united front with many in the mix? and not one that represents true diversity,or gender equality in the party.. the country may not recognize a male leadership in the party even if there was one... its a charade of politics, how long will it last? All the ANC has to do is change their stripes and actually start doing something positive in this country , and the DA will lose that grip or handle. The odds of either happening lies in the balance.

      UNITY - 2013-01-24 08:48

      with all the thumbs down in this column , we already have an opposition !!! lol..thankfully a narrow minded one.

  • ClassWarTrotsky - 2013-01-24 08:18

    Alienated Marxists? Join the DA? What is Tony smoking?

      moegmalseun - 2013-01-24 09:02

      yes comrade it does sound funny but , it is happening all the time cause the cANCer is taking all the spoils like comrade Stalin did and letting you commies look like second rate citizens , i think they got gat fol of nothing going there way - poor comies

      ClassWarTrotsky - 2013-01-24 09:06

      Really, that shows political immaturity. Anyone who has studied Marx, and has adopted the principles of dialectical materialism could never join a party that supports entrenched capital, class division, free trade. It is simply anathema to a Marxist to join a liberal party. I am not pitting idealogy vs idealogy here, just stating that for someone with his supposed political acumen, they should understand the basics of the different socio-political models and theories. Talk about a lack of principles. Allowing Marxists into the party of the Capital and the aspiring capitalists of the bourgeoisie. It is like suggesting that Leon joins the KKK....

  • compos.mentis.58 - 2013-01-24 08:29

    This man is a rocket scientist it seems. Thank you Tony for stating the obvious whilst enjoying the gravy train on the taxpayers expense.... or are you back from your paid holiday??? Just a kortbroek with a slightly funny accent... and it is not the car.

      christopher.m.lowe - 2013-01-24 10:03

      Comparing Tony Leon to Kortbroek, who is a traitor and a sellout, is completely unwarranted. Tony gave his everything to building a strong, credible and principled parliamentary opposition in the face of the most unbelievable and sustained ANC attacks. It's largely thanks to his efforts that Helen Zille and the DA inherited such a strong foundation on which to build. Tony never did anything for himself. He even turned down Mandela's offer of a seat in the Cabinet, because he put the needs of the Opposition first. Kortbroek, on the other hand, sold his soul, betrayed his voters and continues to live high on the hog deep in the bosom of the beast he promised to oppose. He's not called a "crosstitute" for nothing.

  • musa.kamashobane - 2013-01-24 08:38

    Leon has been out of the country for a while now, I wonder what informed his comment. May be you are talking about Helen driving the agenda alone, then I would agree. FF+ is dead, Cope is bogged down with internal strife, Holomisa is hiding behind the bushes of Transkei. Who else is there really?

      JohanMaree - 2013-01-24 09:08

      hehe, well said!

  • ian.boyd.7503 - 2013-01-24 08:43

    Zille is doing a better job than you ever did! (recall the "Fart Back" campaign).

  • pws69 - 2013-01-24 08:58

    His full speech is on politicsweb Some very insightful commentary from him. But there is a disconnect between his belief in how it should be done, versus what actually needs to be done, for the DA to become the majority party. Zille gets it. His fear seems to be that the current DA will compromise its core values for votes. But he fails to understand that the values of a party are entirely dependent on its constituency, and so will by nature be dynamic.

  • jacqui.daanevanrensburg - 2013-01-24 09:03

    Well maybe he can roll up his sleeves and start canvassing.

  • dannymothilall.danny - 2013-01-24 09:04

    No need to fear, by now the whole majority who voted for the ANC has soon discovered that all the promises made by the ANC have not been delivered so the MAJORITY is rather fed-up and as an example the marikana and sasolburg issues speaks for itself.

      michael.laski - 2013-01-24 10:00

      Unfortuantely this will not transalte to fewer votes for the ANC. The ANC will simply compare themselves to Jesus again and will use the good name of Mandela as propaganda in their campaign (again and again). I am pretty sure that they will come up with a fresh approach of cheating the public once again of service delivery, education, healthcare, security and other essential services. It is time for us to be self reliant and move away fro mthe socialist views of the government

  • Killbot79 - 2013-01-24 09:22

    There's a reason why you aren't the leader of the DA so please keep quiet.

  • bongani.nsele.58 - 2013-01-24 11:04

    the DA is a party that is watchful of what it says when it comes to the real issues that keep the people poor, as long as they believe that there are sections of our society that are a no go area in order to address inequalities so prevalent in this country they will remain a party of secret apartheid admirers

  • bushy.dcoloured - 2013-01-24 12:31

    Dear Mr Leon, I recalled in one of the media reports prior to the 2004 national elections, one of the new parties that have hauled the ANC government infront of the Constitutional court during the party registration, suggested that the DA of which you were its executive leader should consider recruiting an eligible, competent, loyal and qualified Black candidate to stand as the DA's Presidential candidate (not window-dressing)to demonstrate your party's willingness to be a fully multi-racial party, but you failed to ignore such advise. Secondly it was note that the DA was since 2004 encourage to "educate and empower Black, Coloured and Indian voters" so come the next election, eligble Voters would have been able to make informed decisions, with your support. Again the DA failed. The only reason why the DA gained more votes is not because they are the Right party, but because COPE dnt cope and the DA has become an "alternative" and not a voters party of choice.

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