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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Zuma picks Tony Leon for top job

Published:Aug 02, 2009

HE’S OFF: Tony Leon is due to be named ambassador to Argentina today. He will be the third DA member appointed to an official government post
Leon on his way to Argentina embassy

In a surprise move, former DA leader Tony Leon has been handed a diplomatic posting by President Jacob Zuma.

The Sunday Times has established that Leon is to be named South Africa’s ambassador to Argentina.

Leon, who as leader of the official opposition had a hostile relationship with former President Thabo Mbeki, has commended Zuma’s accommodating leadership style before and after his election as president.

International Relations director-general Ayanda Ntsaluba said this week that three diplomatic postings would be announced tomorrow, but would not give names.

However, it has been independently confirmed that Leon is one of those, together with former minister of social development Zola Skweyiya and former arts and culture minister Pallo Jordan.

Jordan is due to be posted to the United Nations and Skweyiya is headed for Britain.

Ntsaluba said he was “more comfortable leaving” the matter “at the level of speculation”, adding he was cautious about releasing names of those appointed pending the conclusion of agreements with the countries where they are to be stationed.

“We have made mistakes in the past when we released names, and ended up confirming and sometimes it appeared bad because if we have not secured the agreement the host country begins to think we are taking them for granted.”

Credited for building the DA into a strong opposition, Leon was succeeded as DA leader by Hellen Zille in 2007. He retired from parliamentary politics on the eve of the 2009 election.

In his autobiography On the Contrary, Leon writes at length about his frosty relationship with Mbeki, contrasting it with the cordial relationship he had with Nelson Mandela. Mandela once offered him a cabinet position, but Leon declined.

During the 2009 election campaign, Leon broke ranks with Zille on her views about Zuma, saying his lack of formal education was “utterly irrelevant” to his ability to make sound judgments.

Leon, who did not return calls from the Sunday Times yesterday, is the third DA member to be appointed ambassador by the post-Mbeki administration, after former parliamentary leader Sandra Botha was made ambassador to the Czech Republic and senior MP Sheila Camerer to Bulgaria by interim president Kgalema Motlanthe earlier this year.

Former DA chief whip Douglas Gibson was appointed ambassador to Thailand during Mbeki’s tenure.

  • Meanwhile, former Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana is tipped to take over from Vusi Pikoli as National Director for Public Prosecutions .

    Senior government officials said Zuma is awaiting for the outcome of Pikoli’s high court bid, which seeks to stop the president from announcing Pikoli’s successor before a final ruling on Pikoli’s dismissal as national director. Pikoli is challenging his dismissal in court.

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