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Summary Profile

In September 2009, President Jacob Zuma appointed Anthony (“Tony”) Leon, South African Ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. He served as South African Head of Mission in Buenos Aires until October 2012, when he returned to South Africa. During his term, South African exports to Argentina reached record highs (in excess of R1, 3 bn in 2011) and Argentine tourist arrivals to South Africa increased by over 100%, while more than R100m in new foreign investment was secured. The Springbok Rugby team was hosted in the new “Rugby Championship” in Mendoza, while overall sports’ contact and country branding increased dramatically. For nearly 20 years Tony Leon was 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. President Nelson Mandela described him as “a leader whose dynamism and analysis keeps everyone on their toes”. A trained lawyer, Tony Leon actively participated in the CODESA constitutional negotiations which 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, from the Council on Foreign Relations (Washington DC, and New York City) 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 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 South African bestseller “On the Contrary: Leading the Opposition in a Democratic South Africa” (Jonathan Ball 2008). After standing down from political leadership in 2007, he was awarded a Fellowship at the Institute of Politics, John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. In 2008 he was a Visiting Fellow at the Global Center for Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute, Washington DC. Tony Leon was born in Durban, South Africa in 15 December, 1956. He was educated at Kearsney College, Kwazulu Natal and at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where he graduated with the BA, LLB Degrees. He served as President of the Law Students’ Representative Council. He qualified and practised as an attorney of the Supreme (High) Court of South Africa and lectured in Constitutional Law at the University of Witwatersrand. Prior to entering Parliament, he was elected (1986-1989) to the Johannesbrug City Council, where he led the opposition. In 2000 he married Michal Even Zahav and has two step-children. January, 2011


1. “Leadership That Makes a Difference” – In this inspirational address, he draws on a lifetime of experience and close encounters with some of the political and business greats of the world; his fascinating conclusion on the “Ten Rules for Leadership Unusual “, presents a hopeful, but practical, picture for all participants as South Africa and the world face the severest economic and political tests of the modern age.

2. “South Africa Today and Tomorrow” – Using both his unique access (personal encounters with the last five Presidents – FW De Klerk, Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma) and well-honed political and analytical skills, Tony Leon looks at the possible ways forward for South Africa after the financial market meltdown, currency crash, the credit downgrade and the economic and political challenges which confront us in a world of uncertainty. He also unveils some of the silver linings in our stormy skies. 

3. “Future Imperfect”– South Africa and the World is still feeling the aftermath of a new Global Financial Crisis. Fresh from three years of practising economic diplomacy in the high-growth markets of South America, Ambassador Tony Leon presents a vivid and realistic portrait of the crisis in world markets and where new hope arises in often the unlikeliest places, and how to take advantage of the maxim “never waste a good crisis.”

4. “Behind Embassy Walls” –The Changing face and facts of global diplomacy and “where in the world is South Africa?”

5. “Opposite Mandela” – Tony Leon has published a “riveting and readable” (Rapport 22 June 2014) account of Nelson Mandela’s consequential presidency through his first -hand access to South Africa’s icon. In this address he illustrates how our first democratic president changed the face of our and the world’s politics and how we can draw lessons for today from that era.

6. “Africa-Beyond the Headlines and Behind the Numbers – From Prowling Lions to Black Swans and Hidden Dragons.” Africa’s impressive recent gains in growth and market share have invited investor interest at home and abroad. But in 2016 with crashing commodity prices and rising sovereign debts, some of the shine has gone off the African ball. There are both real success stories and some whopping failures. Analyzing the trends and using real time examples, Ambassador Tony Leon examines whether the once ‘forgotten continent’ is indeed open for business and some of the cautionary tales to remember.

7. “Lessons from the Latins” – Mexico could soon replace China as the centre for global manufacturing; Brazil, once the continent’s super-star is embroiled with challenges yet has seen the most spectacular growth of its middle class in recent world economic history and Colombia and Panama have shrugged off their troubled histories to position themselves as the Singapores of Latin America. Using his experience as the recent South African Ambassador to three countries in the region, Ambassador Tony Leon offers unique insights into this fast growing global market and the opportunities on offer in it.

8.  “2016, Lights on for the Opposition?” – An inside look at where the country finds itself at a time of huge change. The expectation is that the oppositon could win some big Metros off the ruling party. Is this likely and does it mean an end to politcs as we have known it since 1994?,  With an insider’s perspective, and unique access,  Founding DA Leader and Former Ambassador Tony Leon provides a riveting read of our National and Political Balance Sheet.

9. “Power of disruption – Politics and Business” – How the disruptors – from the transistor radio in the 1950’s to the iPhones of the 2000’s have totally disrupted in some cases destroyed industries and business models. In politics the same pattern has emerged in 2016 – from Julius Malema in South Africa to Donald Trump in the United States. A fascinating talk linking disruption and populism in business and politics creates a realistic and challenging picture of the current scene in South Africa and the world.

Tony Leon


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