The South African Editors' Forum (Sanef) has strongly condemned the "violent disruption" at the launch of journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh's book, Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture , at Exclusive Books in Sandton on Tuesday evening.
The book reveals how Magashule stood at the "head of a well-organised state-capture network" in the Free State for almost a decade.This network scooped millions of rands of taxpayers' money in schemes seemingly presided over by Magashule and has allegedly seen people like former president Jacob Zuma, the Gupta family, some of the Magashule children, the former provincial premier himself and a host of connected ANC politicians benefit from various government schemes.
News24 reported that a small group gathered at the launch at Exclusive Books in Sandton City on Tuesday evening and chanted: "Ace!"They reportedly ripped apart some copies of the book and threw the pages around.
According to Sanef, the protesters wore T-shirts displaying the logos of the ANC and Sanco, and destroyed copies of Myburgh's book.
"The protesters loudly chanted "Ace, Ace" and prevented a discussion about the book, hosted by City Press editor Mondli Makhanya, from taking place," Sanef said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.
"Such blatant suppression of freedom of speech has no place in our democracy and we welcome the condemnation issued by the ANC."
Sanef called on the ANC and Sanco to identify and discipline the protesters.
There can never be an excuse to intimidate an author for exercising his right to freedom of expression, Sanef said.
"Sanef encourages the protesters to make use of democratic institutions like the media, the courts or regulatory bodies to air their grievances with Myburgh about his book."
ANC distances itself
The ANC on Tuesday distanced itself from the disruption of the launch of Myburgh's book, as well as plans to burn copies of the book.
ANC acting national spokesperson Dakota Legoete emphasised that those who disrupted the launch at Exclusive Books in Sandton City on Tuesday night had not done so in the name of the ruling party or on behalf of Magashule.He said they viewed the actions in a very serious light."We need to condemn that because people cannot oppose freedom of expression, whether it's through a book or something. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms because it undermines freedom of expression including the freedom of the media to write whatever they like," he told News24.
It was earlier reported that the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) in the Free State planned to burn copies of the book, which contains allegations that Magashule led the province with an iron fist.Announcing the planned burning at the Mangaung dumping site, provincial ANCYL spokesperson Sello Pietersen said: "We therefore urge society to bring along as many copies of this puke as possible, as well as any material that reflects the barbaric past, such as the old apartheid flag, along to our fireplace".Legoete said the above actions would bring about regression."Whatever [Myburgh] wrote there was within his right to express. So if there is any challenge from the SG (secretary general) as an individual, he requested that opportunity to deal with this matter legally."
Exclusive Books CEO Grattan Kirk said protesters had caused enormous damage.
"A lot of books were damaged, a lot of books thrown on the floor, ripped up. We don't know how much damage but there's been an awful load of books destroyed. I don't know how much has been stolen," he said. Kirk added that they had not expected as many people to show up at the launch as it was a private event that could be attended strictly by invitation.
He said the bookstore would be working on what happened at the launch internally and apologised to customers who experienced the disruption. "I really wish it hadn't happened. It was unnecessary and tragic. The author was very scared and threatened and all he wanted to do is launch a book."Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said officers monitored the situation and no arrests were made."No case was opened and there were no injuries. We cannot investigate until the owner of the shop opens a case to say there was damage to property. As for now, no case has been opened."