Tony Leon's 'opportunism knows no end'

The New National Party on Thursday criticised Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon for his latest stance on the death penalty, saying his opportunism knows no end.

“He knows full well that the DA as a party does not support the death penalty,” NNP secretary general Daryl Swanepoel said in a statement.

“But he also knows full well that the majority of South Africans are in favour of the death penalty. And therefore his egg dance,” Swanepoel said.

During a visit to the Mangaung Maximum Security prison near Bloemfontein on Wednesday, Leon was asked about the death penalty, to which he replied that he and many MPs favour its return, and would like the Constitutional Court to revisit its decision to abolish it.

However, Leon made it clear the death penalty is only at the end of the criminal justice system, and is not much of a punishment or a deterrent to crime in a situation where nine out of every 10 serious cases reported to the police do not result in a conviction.

“That needs to be fixed,” he said.

Swanepoel said Leon “speaks as if the DA are for the death penalty, where in fact they are not”.

“Their lame duck front, that members of the DA have a free vote on the issue, is no justification for the DA not having a policy platform in favour of the death penalty.

“In fact, Tony Leon himself does not support the death penalty. He merely says he understands that there might be grounds for debate, and then shifts the responsibility for the decision to the Constitutional Court,” Swanepoel said.

Leon is the deputy chairperson of Liberal International, which passed a resolution in 2000 stating Liberal International should “work for the total abolishment for the use of the death penalty in the world”.

“For Leon to promote the death penalty would be ultra vires the programme of Liberal International, of which he is the deputy chair.

“If he has now suddenly, for the sake of votes, thrown his liberal principles overboard, then the NNP challenges Leon to resign as deputy chair of Liberal International.

“If Leon has changed his principles for the sake of votes, then he must admit that all his efforts in the past to have the death penalty abolished were wrong, and that the NNP has all along been right,” Swanepoel said.—Sapa

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