He was born and educated in KwaZulu Natal, graduated BA.LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and is a qualified attorney. He lives in Cape Town with his wife Michal. In February 2015, on the occasion of its 90th anniversary, Rotary Club of Durban awarded him the Paul Harris Fellowship “in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.”
Tony Leon is the Executive Chairman of Resolve Communications (Pty) Ltd, a South African consultancy specialising in crisis communications, reputation management, government relations and advocacy. He is also a noted author, columnist and speaker. His recently published (May 2014) memoir “Opposite Mandela-Encounters with South Africa’s Icon” has drawn critical acclaim. He is Advisor for Africa for K2 Intelligence of New York and London.
He was appointed by President Jacob Zuma as the South African Ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in August 2009. Since returning from his three year post in Buenos Aires in September 2012, Tony Leon has been thinking, writing, speaking and about matters in South Africa and the world. He consults to businesses both locally and abroad and has a special interest in risk consulting on Africa and South America and on navigating the intricacies of the booming markets of South America.
Tony Leon annually addresses multiple audiences of academics, policy-makers, students and business leaders across the globe, providing one of the most highly sought after in-depth analyses on Africa – covering a range of issues from leadership and governance through to investment and public policy matters. With his engaging style and first hand grasp of the economic and political factors at play on the continent, Leon offers internationally praised analyses of key developments, coupled with vital assessments on the future outlook for various sectors and states in Africa.
For nearly twenty years Tony Leon has been a Member of Parliament in South Africa, and for thirteen years he led the Democratic Alliance and its predecessor. 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.
A trained lawyer, Tony Leon actively participated in the critical constitutional negotiations which led to the birth of a democratic South Africa and served as a co-chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly’s Theme Committee on Fundamental Rights.
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 the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), London, the Institute for Strategic Studies, London, the International Policy Network, London, the Council on Foreign Relations (Washington DC, and New York City), the Alliance of Democrats, Rome, and the World Economic Forum in South Africa, the German Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin, and the European Parliament, Brussels and TEDx, Johannesburg.
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 Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph. He has published four books: “Hope and Fear: Reflections of a Democrat” (Jonathan Ball 1998); “On the Contrary: Leading the Opposition in a Democratic South Africa” (Jonathan Ball 2008); “The Accidental Ambassador-From Parliament to Patagonia” (Pan Macmillan 2013) and “Opposite Mandela -Encounters with South Africa’s Icon” (Jonathan Ball 2014).
After standing down from the leadership of the opposition in 2007, he was awarded a Fellowship at the Institute of Politics, John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and in 2008 was Visiting Fellow at the Cato Institute, Washington DC.
Nelson Mandela said of Tony Leon, on his retirement from political leadership (2007): ”Your contribution to democracy is enormous, you have more support for all you have done than you might ever read about.”
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