South African Opposition Leader to Address Harvard Law Students


Tony Leon, Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of South Africa, will address Harvard Law School students and faculty on the subject of South Africa’s record on the United Nations Security Council. Questions, debate and discussion will follow, and refreshments will be served. The event will take place on Thursday, April 12 at 4:30pm, in Hark South, on the second floor of Harkness Commons.

Since taking up a non-permanent Security Council seat in January, South Africa has tried to prevent the UN from acting on key human rights issues. For example, South Africa opposed a non-binding resolution condemning human rights abuses by the military regime in Burma. South Africa has also tried to prevent the Security Council from debating the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.

In addition, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, South Africa has voted to protect Sudan from criticism over its actions in Darfur. And in the UN General Assembly last year, South Africa was absent from a vote on a resolution condemning Holocaust denial.

On key issues of international security, South Africa has stood with the world’s rogue states, opposing sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program and abstaining from a Security Council resolution criticizing North Korea.

South Africa’s actions in the UN contradict its recent history of leadership in human rights and nuclear non-proliferation. Many observers are calling on South Africa to live up to its legacy and to help “people who are oppressed and disenfranchised, having been assisted in its own struggle by just such pressure.”(1)

Mr. Leon heads South Africa’s largest and fastest-growing opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). Since 1994, he has built on his party’s proud legacy of opposition to apartheid to shape a new tradition of opposition politics in the post-apartheid era.

Under Mr. Leon’s leadership, the DA became the first party to provide anti-retroviral drugs to South Africans with HIV/Aids. The DA has also fought for market-friendly economic development, basic welfare for the poor, better law enforcement, and the independence of the judiciary.

Mr. Leon is a lawyer by training, and has lectured in law at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He played a key role in South Africa’s constitutional negotiations in the early 1990s and is considered responsible for provisions establishing South Africa’s Judicial Services Commission.

Mr. Leon has served as Leader of the Opposition since 1999 and will be stepping down in May at the age of fifty. He is visiting Harvard as the guest of the Harvard African Law Association (HALA).

(1) Godwin, Peter. “Showing Mugabe the Door.” New York Times (3 Apr. 2007): A23.

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