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Jewish Politician in South Africa Sues in Latest Episode of Scandal

June 13, 2002
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A leading South African Jewish politician is suing some of his former allies for defamation of character.

Tony Leon, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance in South Africa’s Parliament, brought the lawsuit against the New National Party and two of its senior officials for alleging that Leon might have been involved in a major political fund-raising scandal.

After the 1999 elections, the two parties joined forces for a while, and their alliance controlled politics in the Western Cape region. After strains emerged in the relationship, however, the New National Party jumped ship to form an alliance with the country’s largest party, the African National Congress.

Following some dirty political infighting, control of the Western Cape changed to the ANC and the New National Party. However, the largest city in the region, Cape Town, remained in the hands of Leon’s Democratic Alliance.

The mayor of Cape Town now is caught up in a scandal that threatens his political future. A wealthy German businessman, who is wanted in Germany on wide ranging fraud charges — and who faces similar charges in South Africa — allegedly provided illegal funding to Cape Town’s mayor and certain local Democratic Alliance officials.

The New National Party has made political capital of these accusations. Two top NNP officials — the party’s executive director, Renier Schoeman, and his deputy, Daryl Swanepoel — have alleged that Leon himself might have been involved in the dealings.

Leon is suing them and their party for $100,000 in damages.

“The NNP leadership has crossed the line, the effect of which has been to besmirch my good name and reputation and my dignity without substantiation and with reckless disregard for the truth and consequence,” Leon said.

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