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Tony Leon PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 11:36

Tony Leon (1956 - ) is a Durban-born writer. He has written autobiographies that draw mainly from his experiences in politics. For nearly twenty years 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.

Leon later went on to serve as South Africa’s ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, nominated by President Jacob Zuma, from August 2009 to October 2012. He recently returned to South Africa, and is consulting to business in South America and South Africa, writing a column for Business Day and speaking to various audiences.

A trained lawyer, Leon actively participated in the critical constitutional negotiations that 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, institutes and think tanks from the Council on Foreign Relations (Washington DC, and New York City) and the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), London, to the German Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin, the European Parliament in Brussels and to the World Economic Forum in South Africa.

Leon’s autobiographies have garnered much critical praise and several accolades. Marian L. Tupy (of the Cato Institute) described On the Contrary as a “funny, self-deprecating, informative, and insightful” piece of literature that “should be widely read”. Tracey McDonald appreciated how The Accidental Ambassador “showcases [Leon’s] wit and sense of humour”. Gorry Bowes Taylor also enjoyed the book’s humour and the examination of Leon’s experiences as an ambassador. Biz News’s Alec Hogg and Books and Book’s both commended the content of Opposite Mandela. Hogg called the book a “gem” and praised its “unique insights into an unexplored aspect of the Presidency and leadership of Nelson Mandela”. Books and Books found Opposite Mandelainsightful, and simultaneously serious and amusing” in its review, going on to laud the way it “lifts the veil on many unknown or unexplained benchmarks” during Mandela’s tenure as president. Leon’s work has been longlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award twice; in 2009 for On the Contrary and in 2014 for The Accidental Ambassador. In 2009 On the Contrary won Via Afrika’s prestigious “Recht Malan Prize” for nonfiction.

Beyond his autobiographies, Leon has been widely published in academic journals and in the media. He 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. 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. In 2008 he was invited as a fellow to the Cato Institute in Washington DC, where he published a paper on liberal democracy in Africa.

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.”


Twitter: @TonyLeonSA

Selected Work

Excerpt from On the Contrary - Leading the Opposition in a Democratic South Africa (2008:16):

Of course, we had the skins of privilege, and my father's burgeoning legal practice - supplemented by Granny Ray's material generosity. We has all the accoutrements of an advantaged elite: weekends at the Oyster Box hotel in nearby Umhlanga Rocks, holidays in the mountains of the Drakensberg and in Johannesburg; a legion of servants and nannies; and the effortless assumption that a private-school education could ensure that 'the blessings' (as our parents called us) would be insulated against the travails of Christian National Education then being imposed by the Nats on the public schools - promising us the best kind of life as scions of the elect.
Nevertheless, the political climate into which I was born was not simply set by the National Party's grim and benighted legislative railroad. There was, too, African resistance. My first conscious awareness of politics was when my brother and I stood on the veranda of our house on the crest of South Ridge Road and excitedly watched South African Defence Force Saracens, or armoured cars, on their way to subdue the densely populated African township of Cato Manor, which practically bordered the leafy salubrious area in which we lived. To a four-year-old and his brother, this was all a game, like war or a sophisticated version of the cops-and-robbers we played at nursery school. In fact it was the deadly face and force of the government imposing the first state of emergency since the advent of National Party rule. It was 1960.


1998. Hope and Fear - Reflections of a Democrat. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers.

2008. On the Contrary - Leading the Opposition in a Democratic South Africa. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers.

2013. The Accidental Ambassador -From Parliament to Patagonia. Johannesburg: Pan Macmillan.


2014. Opposite Mandela - Encounters with South Africa's Icon. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers.

On the Twitter Trail: January 2015 Roundup PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 11:04

By Rasvanth Chunylall

Translation by: Nokulunga A. Mbatha

Many writers have embraced twitter as a medium to engage with fans, develop their brand identities, share news stories and express their thoughts and opinions. Here are some highlights from the twitter accounts of a few KZN writers.

So happy for the luminous #GinaRodriguez and so thrilled and proud for #JaneTheVirgin. Congratulations! @JaneWriters @JennieUrman

— Jann Turner (@JannTurner) January 12, 2015


#jesuisnigeria because we are waiting still, #bringbackourgirls and#stoptheslaughter #humanityonelove

— Shafinaaz Hassim (@shafinaaz) January 12, 2015

Feel like a junkie! My fingers are itching to write, but it's family day#amwriting #book8

Melissa Delport (@melissadelport) January 18, 2015

What we need is for players like Rantie to convert chances. Now we will be battling goal difference too. Eish!

— Eric Miyeni (@EricMiyeni) January 19, 2015


— Angelina N. Sithebe (@angelinasithebe) January 20, 2015

Say what you want. Think what you might. But these boys are certainly playing with their hearts #BafanaBafana

— Azad Essa (@azadessa) January 23, 2015

Watched Birdman tonight. What a different film. Tweaked conventions all over the place, from sound track to narrative. All worked. Mostly.

— Janet van Eeden (@janetvaneeden) January 24, 2015

What a gorgeous day, love #Durban in the summer!

Melissa Delport (@melissadelport) January 24, 2015

Even those who do not love us, ultimately desire that we love them. If we can love those who do not love us, we will always be at peace!

— Shabbir Banoobhai (@SBanoobhai) January 24, 2015

“Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, what the world asks of you is courage"

— Janet van Eeden (@janetvaneeden) January 26, 2015

Writer's Block? It's a thing. You know where story has to go & your characters' goals but don't know which step to get them there!

— Janet van Eeden (@janetvaneeden) January 26, 2015

On the positive side, although I may be unfit, in 6 weeks time I will have the strongest legs and abs ever. #dislocatedelbow

— Rosamund Kendal (@Rosamundkendal) January 28, 2015

Amadlelo aluhlaza ayaqothuka uma kushintsha isikhathi sonyaka (1)

— Minenhle Mthembu (@IamMinenhle_ZN) January 28, 2015

"Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it." - Derek Sivers

— Michelle McGrane (@MichelleMcGrane) January 29, 2015

(1) The green pastures become dry and lose their colour during the change of the season.

Margaret von Klemperer PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 10:57

Margaret von Klemperer (1948 - ) was born and educated in England, and came to South Africa when she married a South African. In her London days she worked for both a publisher and a literary agent.

For the whole of her South African life, she has lived in Pietermaritzburg. Once her children were at school, she studied at the then University of Natal as a mature student, receiving an Honours degree (cum laude) in English. She joined the staff of the Natal Witness as a reporter in 1990, working first on the education beat, and then was the Arts Editor for 16 years, retiring at the end of 2008 to see whether she could write a publishable book. She remained as the Books’ Editor on a part-time basis for the next six years. She has now retired from journalism, but not from writing or reviewing.

In 2012, her first novel, Just A Dead Man, was published (by Jacana Media). It is a light-hearted crime novel, set in Pietermaritzburg. The book touches on pertinent topics including xenophobia, racism and the manipulation of history to suit political agendas. Von Klemperer sees crime fiction as offering important insights into society while at the same time being entertaining – which is, after all, its main purpose. But it can hold up a fascinating and revealing mirror to the world in which it is set. The novel received positive reviews upon release. Janet van Eeden, writing for Litnet, praised the novel as a “delightful … light yet intelligent” read. In her ArtSmart review, Caroline Smart described von Klemperer as a “highly skilled writer who has the capacity to hit the nail on the head description-wise”.

Von Klemperer is married to Julian, a lawyer, and has two adult children and two grandchildren. When she isn’t reading or writing (which doesn’t leave much time), she enjoys theatre, yoga, walking her dog and cooking.

Selected Work

Excerpt from Just A Dead Man (2012:8):

"Laura. There's a body ... up there ... just beyond where the path goes off. Lying there."
"What? What do you mean 'a body'? A dead body? Who?"
"Of course a dead body! A man. I've no idea who he is. He's just lying there. Grumpy saw him first, went over to him, growling. I thought ... I went to look. He's dead all right. There was blood ... and ..." Daniel's voice trailed off and he swallowed. His face was grey under the coating of sweat. He dropped the dog lead and gripped the fence with both hands. "Oh Christ. I suppose ... I suppose he must have been murdered. His head was bashed in."
I put my hand on his arm and physically dragged him in through the gate, nudging the dog into the garden with my knee. I spun the combination on the padlock with a shaking hand, locking out whatever was out there. Even as I did it, I recognised the futility of the gesture. I unclipped Grumpy's lead and, still holding onto Daniel, probably for mutual support, headed back towards the house. We went in through the open studio door, which I shut and locked as well.


2012. Just A Dead Man. Johannesburg: Jacana Media.


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