Former DA leader Tony Leon on Election’24: Winners, losers, the Polls – and May 30

Political veteran and long-time leader of the Official Opposition, Tony Leon, shares his perspectives on next week’s South African elections. With the Big Vote a week away, Leon judges which the parties campaigns he reckons have been successful – and not. And tells BizNews editor Alec Hogg what will be occupying the minds of the political leaders in the immediate aftermath of May 29. 

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Highlights from the interview

In this extensive interview, Alec Hogg speaks with Tony Leon, former leader of the opposition in South Africa, about the upcoming elections. Leon discusses the likelihood of higher voter turnout than predicted and potential changes in political landscape. Reflecting on his political career, Leon expresses contentment with his current role outside of active politics. He analyzes the campaign strategies of major parties, highlighting the ANC’s ability to navigate its shortcomings and the EFF’s struggles amidst Jacob Zuma’s influence. Leon also evaluates smaller parties like ActionSA and the DA, emphasizing the importance of organizational sustainability. Regarding the election outcome, he predicts the ANC’s likely failure to secure a majority, raising questions about potential coalition formations and regional influences, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. Leon underscores the significance of voter turnout and the potential impact on the ANC’s performance. Overall, the interview offers insights into South Africa’s political dynamics and the uncertainties surrounding the upcoming elections.

Edited transcript of the the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Alec Hogg [00:00:10]:As we stand on the precipice of South Africa’s upcoming elections, just a mere week away, there’s a palpable sense of anticipation surrounding voter turnout. To navigate through the nuances of this electoral landscape, we’re joined by Tony Leon, former opposition leader. Tony, with the hustle and bustle of election campaigns, do you ever find yourself yearning to be back in the thick of it all?

Tony Leon [00:00:53]: Ah, Alec, the allure of election campaigns certainly has its moments, but having traversed the political terrain for years, I’ve garnered my fair share of experiences. Despite the ANC’s litany of shortcomings, they seem adept at harnessing their national campaign apparatus, employing a sophisticated strategy to maintain their support base. Meanwhile, the DA finds itself somewhat overshadowed amidst the clamor, while emerging contenders like the Patriotic Alliance are making considerable strides. And as for the EFF, their once formidable momentum appears to be waning, perhaps amidst shifting political dynamics. It’s truly a mixed bag, Alec, with each party grappling with its unique set of obstacles amidst the fervor of electoral politics.

Alec Hogg [00:02:37]: Drawing from your extensive experience, Tony, who do you believe is managing their campaign effectively, and who seems to be faltering?

Tony Leon [00:02:59]: Ah, an astute inquiry, Alec. The ANC has been skillful in navigating their challenges and maintaining their support base, leveraging their extensive campaign machinery to weather the storm. Conversely, the DA remains resilient, with a steadfast presence, yet it appears somewhat subdued amidst the cacophony of competing voices. Meanwhile, emerging contenders like the Patriotic Alliance are gaining traction, capitalizing on the shifting political landscape to carve out their niche. As for the EFF, they seem to be grappling with a loss of momentum, perhaps amidst the ebb and flow of public sentiment. Indeed, Alec, each party faces its unique set of obstacles in this dynamic landscape, where the political tides can swiftly turn.

Alec Hogg [00:14:03]: Herman Mashaba from Action SA is grappling with the conundrum of low polling numbers despite their concerted efforts. Where do you attribute this predicament, Tony?

Tony Leon [00:14:46]: Ah, an intriguing puzzle, Alec. Polls can often be misleading, offering merely a snapshot of public sentiment at a given moment in time. Action SA, once hailed as a beacon of change, now finds itself navigating the treacherous waters of electoral politics amidst stiff competition. Indeed, the landscape has evolved, with newer contenders vying for attention and support, thereby diluting the political arena. Parties like Action SA and the EFF, anchored heavily on their leaders’ charisma, struggle to establish enduring organizational structures beyond their figureheads, thereby facing inherent challenges in translating personal popularity into sustainable electoral success. It’s a complex interplay of factors, Alec, where perception often diverges from reality, and the true pulse of the electorate remains elusive.

Alec Hogg [00:17:48]: Let’s shift our focus to Mmusi Maimane. Despite his personal popularity, his party lacks a robust organizational backbone. How do you foresee his performance in the upcoming elections, Tony?

Tony Leon [00:18:01]: Ah, Mmusi Maimane, a figure of considerable prominence amidst the political landscape, yet ensnared in the intricacies of electoral politics. His personal appeal is undeniable, resonating with a diverse spectrum of the populace, yet his party’s organizational framework remains a point of contention. Without a solid organizational backbone, translating personal popularity into sustainable electoral success presents a formidable challenge, one that requires astute navigation amidst the turbulent currents of electoral politics. Maimane’s journey, Alec, is emblematic of the broader challenges facing emerging leaders in our political landscape, where charisma alone may not suffice to navigate the complex terrain of electoral politics.

Alec Hogg [00:22:19]: Looking ahead, Tony, what are your prognostications for the election outcome?

Tony Leon [00:22:57]: Ah, the proverbial crystal ball, Alec, offering but a glimpse into the labyrinth of electoral politics. While the ANC may not secure the resounding victory they aspire to, they’re likely to retain power, albeit with varying degrees of influence. However, the implications of their performance will reverberate throughout the political landscape, shaping the contours of our nation’s future. Turnout, particularly in pivotal regions like KwaZulu-Natal, will be a decisive factor, determining the trajectory of electoral outcomes and the ensuing political landscape. The unfolding scenario is rife with anticipation, Alec, as we await the verdict of the electorate amidst the fervor of electoral politics.

Alec Hogg [00:25:14]: Your insights are invaluable, Tony. Thank you for sharing your astute observations.

Tony Leon [00:25:28]: It’s always a pleasure, Alec. Navigating the labyrinth of South African politics offers endless intrigue and enlightenment.

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