South Africa's ruling ANC has blocked a plan by a faction within its youth league to burn a book critical of the party's secretary general. The Free State Youth League disrupted the launch of the book because they claim that the allegations of corruption against Ace Magashule are false.
In his book, Gangster State: unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture, South African journalist, Pieter-Louis Myburgh, alleges that Magashule was deeply involved in corrupt activities while he was the premier of the Free State province.
On 9 April, members of the ANC Youth League from the Free State province ripped up several books and vandalised the book store in the Sandton district of Johannesburg where the launch event was taking place.
The ANC said it had not authorised the protest and added that the incident undermined freedom of speech.
I will be mobilizing @MYANC ( NWC ) to urgently bring those involved in the disruption of the #GangsterState #AceMagashule book launch before a disciplinary committee. Those thugs have brought the ANC name into disrepute. They have trashed our hard worn democracy . pic.twitter.com/LIq3SnX4Yn
Jackson Mthembu (@JacksonMthembu_) April 10, 2019
"The ANC will not tolerate the disruption of book launches and the threat to burn books by its members," the party said in a statement. "We see this as a sign of disrespect for democratic principles. All South Africans have a right to free speech even if we disagree with them."
Sello Pietersen, the spokesperson of the Free State ANC Youth League, told News 24: "After we had released our statement with the intention to burn the book because we disagree with its propaganda, the ANC leadership engaged us and indicated that burning the book will not assist anything in terms of achieving our objectives and that they did not agree with the burning of the book."
Myburgh's book explores the political trajectory of Magashule who was the premier of Free State province between 2009 and 2018.
Magashule is being accused of nepotism, links with the controversial Gupta family, influencing tenders and contracts which earned him the nickname of Mr Ten Per Cent.
The ANC's spokesperson, Dakota Legoete, said that the book is a ploy to tarnish the ANC ahead of elections due on 8 May.
Professor Lesiba Teffo, a political analyst at the University of South Africa, added: "There is no doubt that this is damaging for the ANC. "This is a man [Ace Magashule] who has been in power for many years. And it is his colleagues who are saying that he has been corrupt. They are saying look at the evidence of how he has been behaving.
"And there are many people who are willing to confirm that under oath.
"What Myburgh said is in the public domain. He added the details and nuances of it all. And Myburgh put it together in a scientific and scholarly way."
While the ANC is accusing Myburgh of spreading fake news, it is also saying that this issue concerns the secretary general and not the party.
"The ANC has not distanced itself from Magashule," Teffo added. "All they found was a technical way to say it is a personal matter [which] does not have anything to do with the organisation.
"So, it is like there are two 'Ace's here. The one we [the ANC] embrace is the Ace [who is] the secretary general but the other Ace we don't embrace and he must be on his own."
Teffo highlights the contradictory statements made by the ANC who claims the issue with the book is a personal matter that only concerns its secretary general but at the same time it tarnishes the image of the party.
Teffo argues since most of the allegations contained in the book are already in the public domain, the party cannot now claim that the book is a fabrication of lies just because elections are around the corner.
Exclusive Books doors being closed. Remember you can still get your copy online or at all leading bookstores countrywide. Fake news? Or did #GangsterState by @PLMyburgh hit the nail right on the head? Decide for yourself. #AceMagashule pic.twitter.com/ucPKsMDgdy
Penguin Books SA (@PenguinBooksSA) April 9, 2019
Youth League plays race card
Pietersen said that Myburgh's book is garbage. "The intention is to create the impression that the leadership of the ANC is corrupt ... precisely a few days before the national elections."
Protester Thabo Baleni, the spokesperson for the Fezile Dabi region ANC Youth League, said he was critical of the Caucasians who "come up with things so desperate."
Teffo said playing the race card is a trite argument played by a cornered politician.
"Africans or Blacks in South Africa are sick and tired of that because people do not want to own up," he added.
"They are quick to blame any person, all of the more if of Caucasian descent, when they cannot say anything sensible. That card has lost currency."