'I am a human being, not your science study': Inside Mmusi Maimane and Tony Leon's heated spat
One SA movement leader Mmusi Maimane has slammed former DA leader Tony Leon for referring to him as “an experiment [that] went wrong”.
Leon caused a stir over the weekend after an interview on News24, in which he spoke about his new book titled “Future Tense”.
In the interview, Leon was quoted as saying Maimane was “an experiment [that] went wrong” when he was elected as leader of the DA in 2015, before throwing in the towel in 2019.
The interview sparked outrage, with Maimane calling Leon out for disrespecting him.
“Wa itlhagisa, ebile wa tella (you exposed yourself and are even disrespectful). Entlek ungijwayela kabi (actually, you’ve disrespected me badly)," Maimane told Leon.
Maimane said he left the DA for a reason and time was revealing that reason.
“The sheer audacity to erase my agency, my dignity and my humanity.”
The sheer audacity to erase my agency, my dignity and my humanity.— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) April 3, 2021
Maimane said Leon took a shot at him because he wanted the DA to celebrate the life of the late ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela Mandela when she died in 2018 and to expand the party base beyond its “traditional voters”.
“That was the right thing to do and I stand by those decisions,” he said.
“Imagine being the second largest party and saying nothing when an icon like Winnie Madikizela Mandela passes on. That would reflect a lack of ubuntu and a lack of sensitivity to the moment. I was not going to do that. Celebrating her life was the right thing to do,” Maimane added.
Imagine being the second largest party and saying nothing when an icon like Winnie Madikizela Mandela passes on.— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) April 3, 2021
That would reflect a lack of ubuntu and a lack of sensitivity to the moment. I was not going to do that.
Celebrating her life was the right thing to do.
Speaking on SABC News on Monday, Mmusi said Leon’s description of him “says more about him than it says about me”.
“The project of dehumanising is certainly one that is historic. I was offended and found the comments offensive, but in some ways, not surprised.
“At some level, you have got to sit back and say it says more about those who make those comments than those who the comments are made about. The journey to a non-racial SA is going to be long and hard because you are going to have people who keep referring to others as experiments and you need to strengthen your resolve,” he said.
Leon defended himself, saying: “Indeed it’s an experiment to elect as leader someone who never voted for his own party in the general elections before he joined it”.
He referred to the outrage online as a “faux outrage of Twitter woke brigade”.
“There is something rather magnificent in the faux outrage of Twitter woke brigade about an article most didn’t read and a book clearly not read either,” he said.
In a Newzroom Afrika interview, Leon maintained he was right for calling Mmusi an experiment.
“Mmusi was an experiment [that] went wrong as he never committed to the party's ideals before he joined. As a matter of fact, Mmusi had never voted for the DA in the two elections he could have voted in after 1994. He voted against the DA in those elections and on the day he arrived in parliament as a newly sworn in member he was immediately appointed leader of the opposition,” said Leon.
On social media, many users weighed in on Leon's statement. Here is a snapshot of some of the reactions:
Saying “I am sorry if you are offended” is not an apology.— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) April 4, 2021
Reducing my political efforts canvassing for support to just being an experiment is foul and exposes him. Nobody just shows up anywhere. I navigated the terrain and won the votes.
As for Judas. It is what it is.
Tony Leon says Mmusi Maime is an experiment gone wrong. This means that all blacks in the DA are used for experiment what a shame.— Thabo Mokoena (@ThaboMokoena_) April 4, 2021
Leon admits Maimane was never told that he is an experiment. This means Leon is basically admitting that the DA was using Maimane (a black man) to advance party (a white dominanted party) interests that he is not aware of. NB: DA is known for its 'nonracialism' policy.— Sėgõpî (@iamSegopi) April 5, 2021
It was painfully obvious to everyone that Mmusi WAS an experiment for the DA.— Dr. Raymond Voetsek 🇿🇦 (@DrVoetsek) April 5, 2021
DA elevated a young inexperienced guy over other members (Wilmot James) because he was Black and Obama-esque.
It didn't pay off at the polls.
Tony Leon just said it out loud!
Tony Leon means putting Mmusi Maimane's face in the ballot paper was an experiment & DA has not distanced itself from his utterances.— Bra Hloni (@HonourableHloni) April 5, 2021