On the Contrary : Leading the Opposition in a Democratic South Africa
Controversial, principled, plain-spoken – Tony Leon, leader of the opposition for thirteen years, is all that and more. Destined from early life as the son of a High Court Judge to make a major impact as an ironclad liberal,
Controversial, principled, plain-spoken – Tony Leon, leader of the opposition for thirteen years, is all that and more. Destined from early life as the son of a High Court Judge to make a major impact as an ironclad liberal, he has nonetheless interrogated his idealism in strategic terms and left the political arena strewn with defeated adversaries and old-style conservatives content to let human rights slip for the sake of an easy life.
Without fear or favor he also confronted the new elite wherever or whenever they exceeded the bounds of parliamentary, political or private probity, as they often did.
On the Contrary records in his finely-focused prose an adventure in ideas that involves vivid, real people – friends, colleagues and remorseless opponents alike. Many are famous names. Readers will be startled at Leon’s freshness of approach and grasp of the intricate realities and compromises that go into the making of a politician and into the leadership of a political party. Fresh light is cast on a half-century of figures who have shaped modern South Africa: from the dour Nationalists to the abrasive personalities of the liberation fold. Themes, events and personalities emerge from five decades of memory, participation and intellectual struggle. They are unique in our records, told from very near the center of power.
He lifts the lid on many of the most important chapters of the recent epoch: the constitutional negotiations, the birth and near death of the Democratic Alliance, his struggle with Thabo Mbeki over AIDS, Zimbabwe and race. In a no-holds-barred assessment he provides an insider’s account of the dramas and events which have helped shape and define modern South Africa. He also charts the future course of South Africa after the rise of Jacob Zuma and the struggle for power inside the ANC.
Leon’s book offers an almost forensic examination of how corruption, crime and unemployment corroded the high ideals of the Constitution and of Parliament itself. He is also not afraid of allowing glimpses of his rich, private life – the brilliance of this book rests in its careful balance of the public and the private and how they nurture each other.