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SAF President and Outgoing Opposition Leader Hold Private Talks


In South Africa, the outgoing leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance Party met Thursday with President Thabo Mbeki. Tony Leon is stepping down after many years as head of the DA. A successor has yet to be chosen.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. She told English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that it’s reported to be actually the first private meeting between Leon and Mbeki.

“This is what Mr. Leon says and in fact it’s been one of his complaints on a litany of many about the government over several years…under his leadership, his party seems to react negatively on most issues. And it’s the tone of the criticism I think that has gotten under the president’s skin. Mr. Mbeki I think has felt that the manner in which the criticisms were leveled are often quite insulting and belittling,” she says.

Joe Seremane, the party’s federal chairperson and one of the candidates vying to replace Leon as DA leader, says the tone of criticism would change under his leadership. The other leading contender, Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille, is also a harsh critic of the government, but she speaks an African language and has a long history of opposing apartheid.

Robertson says South Africa has a vigorous opposition, but the problem is “it’s too small.” Asked whether President Mbeki is glad that Leon is stepping down, she says, “Maybe he’ll have a sense of relief not to have to deal with his barbs, although Mr. Leon will be remaining in Parliament. But I do think he would find it easier to deal with any of the current contenders for the position.”

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