Book ‘launched’ at freedom protest

Luvuyo Hanong and Sibulele Kasana of Equal Education at the peoples launch of Gangster State.

Activist group Unite Behind blocked off a section of Adderley Street on Monday April 15 with its public launch and reading of the controversial book, Gangster State, Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture, by Pieter-Louis Myburgh.

The public launch comes after some venues refused to launch the book, according to Unite Behind secretary member, Zackie Achmat.

The launch of the book in Sandton, in Gauteng, on Tuesday April 9, was disrupted by a group of protesters.

According to reports, they wore ANC T-shirts and proceeded to rip apart some copies of the book and threw pages around.

A day after, the V&A Waterfront, due to security concerns, rescheduled the book launch, which was supposed to take place at Exclusive Books on Thursday April 11.

Instead, it was moved to CapeTalk studios in Somerset Square, Green point.

Exclusive Books CEO, Grattan Kirk, said the decision to postpone the launch of Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book at the Waterfront store on Thursday April 11 was reached after a three-way discussion between themselves, the South African Police Service (SAPS), and centre management at the V&A Waterfront.

Western Cape service delivery protest marches were scheduled for the same time as our launch and the police had been put on high alert for those protest actions.

They advised us that they would be unable to provide any security support to us in the event of any similar disruption, as we experienced at our Sandton store on Tuesday, April 9, and therefore their recommendation was to postpone the event to a date when they could lend their support.”

He said in addition, given the recommendations of the police and V&A Waterfront management, Exclusive Books was advised that any claims for damage or injury arising from the protest action would not have been accepted by the insurance company.

“We continue to stand by freedom of expression, Pieter-Louis Myburgh and Penguin Random House.”

The V&A Waterfront spokesperson Donald Kau said they had noted the media reports of protests that have taken place around the launch of the book. “We respect the rights of individuals or groups to lawfully protest to bring attention to issues. Equally we believe in the rights of free speech enshrined in our constitution. However, our first priority is to ensure the safety and security of our visitors and tenants and this informed the decision taken jointly with Exclusive Books and the South African Police Service to postpone.”

A drop-in launch was also held at The Book Lounge in Roeland Street on Friday April 12, and the launch that was to take place at the Waterfront last week was due to take place yesterday at its amphitheatre.

Meanwhile, Reverend Alan Storey of the Central Methodist Mission Church on Greenmarket Square said they decided on a people’s launch as some have “refused” to do the launch and the gathering was to support freedom of speech.

He said that Unite Behind and supporting organisations such as Equal Education and Reclaim the City, who also attended the launch, was supporting a courageous cause.

He added that there could only be freedom if there was freedom of speech. “If people want to stop the truth, it’s because they are scared. People who want to hide this book and burn it, we have to ask ourselves what they are scared of. We won’t be silenced. We want our right to speak.”

Activist Marcus Solomon, who is also an ex-political prisoner, came out in support of the launch.

“When people want to burn and ban books, then we are in trouble. I was banned for five years and I was on Robben Island. I was with people on the island who wanted to say things that would’ve helped understand our country better. It is our duty to stop this kind of behaviour of silencing people.”

Zuki Vuka of Unite Behind said the work of the organisation was similar to the work of the author.

“Today we are saying no to corruption, and we won’t allow the state to shut us up.”

At the protest, excerpts and poems of previously banned literature were read out to the protesters, including that of poet Ingrid Jonker, who committed suicide by walking into the ocean at Three Anchor Bay. An excerpt of Gangster State was also read.

Mr Achmat said it was disappointing that not more of the public and passers-by stayed to listen.

“There were many words that were banned, and we wanted to make it a celebration of freedom instead of a protest so we decided to read banned literature and make it known.”

The author of Gangster State, Pieter Louise Myburgh, said he has been following the work of Unite Behind and they do “amazing work in society”.

“Since the book was launched, it’s been drawing criticism from the ANC and supporters of Ace Magashule, and it’s been cruel. But it’s great to see an organisation like this support not only me as a writer but freedom of speech as a whole.”

Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture details the dealings of Ace Magushule from his time as a struggle activist in the 1980s to his powerful rule as premier of the Free State province for nearly a decade, and his rise to one of the ANC’s most influential positions.

Investigative journalist and author Mr Myburgh explores Magashule’s relationship with the notorious Gupta family and other tender moguls; investigates government projects costing billions that allegedly enriched his friends and family but failed the poor; reveals how he was about to be arrested by the Scorpions before their disbandment in the late 2000s; and exposes the methods used to keep him in power in the Free State and to secure him the post of ANC secretary-general.