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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Brent Meersman Interviews Ambassador Tony Leon

Tony Leon

On the ContraryBrent Meersman, on a tour of South America, catches up with South Africa’s newest ambassador to Argentina, the former leader of Democratic Alliance opposition, Tony Leon:

BM: Had you been to Argentina before?

TL: Yes, bizarrely enough I spent my 50th birthday here exactly three years ago. I went on a cruise from here up the coast to Brazil. I thought it a very nice city and country. I didn’t think I’d spend my 53rd birthday here in residence.

In fact, when the offer of an ambassadorship came, I was offered a choice of two countries and I chose this one because I’d been here before and I thought it a great place. There is a difference of course between living here and visiting as a tourist. [It is] Quite a challenge sometimes living here, but the people are fantastic.

South Africa has a very positive image so it isn’t a hardship being the ambassador to Argentina. But I also have two other countries, Uruguay and Paraguay, though because of bureaucratic slowness on various sides, I haven’t yet presented my credentials. All three countries have qualified for the [Fifa] World Cup, as well as Chile, so this southern cone is in terms of proximity quite a buzz. The World Cup is important to our diplomacy.

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