'Tony Leon was just doing his job' – DA veteran defends former leader's calls for Winnie probe

Tony Leon. (File: Supplied)
Tony Leon. (File: Supplied)

If former DA leader Tony Leon didn't call for an investigation into Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, he would have been guilty of not doing his job.

This was his response to former minister of safety and security Sydney Mufamadi, who said at a press briefing on Monday that Leon went to see then police commissioner George Fivaz and had the investigation into the murder of Stompie Seipei reopened.

Following the death of Madikizela-Mandela on April 2, Fivaz said there wasn't anything that connected her to the murder of Seipei. 

Allegations that there was a campaign to smear Madikizela-Mandela came thick and fast after a documentary on her was aired last week.

READ: Mufamadi distances himself from plot to discredit Madikizela-Mandela

Douglas Gibson, former chief whip of the opposition when Leon was the leader of the opposition, issued a statement in response to Mufamadi on Leon's behalf, as his father, former judge Ramon Leon, died on Sunday morning.  

"It would be inappropriate for Tony to become involved in a public fight with Sydney Mufamadi, or anyone else, during this time of mourning," reads Gibson's statement.

'An unblushing and unprincipled liar'

"Any suggestion of an involvement with Stratcom before 1994 when he was the opposition justice spokesperson or, afterwards, when he was the leader of the opposition to the ANC government is a ridiculous lie. Tony Leon was doing his job and any allegation that he was 'behind' the persecution of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is also a lie."

Gibson invited those "interested in the truth, rather than nasty smears" to read chapter 13, entitled "Tangling with The Lady" in Leon's 2008 book, On the Contrary

"It tells the whole story of our efforts to ensure that the under-investigation of crimes and the under-prosecution that took place during the last years of the apartheid government were put right under the democratic government with thorough investigations and proper prosecution if sufficient evidence was uncovered. 

"I was present at most of the interviews recounted and can personally vouch for the truth of what Tony wrote."

He added that it wasn't a clandestine matter. 

"There was sensational publicity of Tony's speeches and writings, as well as the debates in Parliament. After all, Madikizela-Mandela was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to four years in jail. The judge described her in that trial as 'an unblushing and unprincipled liar'. That sentence was replaced by a fine but the conviction was upheld by the appeal court," Gibson said.

'The very embodiment of the political monster she attempted to slay'

"If Tony had not openly and publicly called for an investigation he would have been failing in his duty as leader of the opposition."

He said notwithstanding the current effort to create a better past, one needs to recall that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was unequivocal and condemnatory about Madikizela-Mandela on human rights violations. 

"It is ridiculously unfair and wrong to attempt to convert Tony Leon into a villain. There are enough others around who could be seen as that," Gibson said.

"In Tony's book, On the Contrary, he sums up his view of Winnie, after referring to her as the 'charming, comforting, beguiling Mother of the Nation', [he] says: 'History, if accurately and unsentimentally written, should record Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's role properly. How she stood up, with singular charisma and courage, to apartheid; but also how, in so many ways, like the legend of Perseus, she became the very embodiment of the political monster she attempted to slay.'

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