'Thugs!' - ANC joins anger over Gangster State book launch protest

10 April 2019 - 08:26 By Iavan Pijoos
Protesters disrupted the book launch of 'Gangster State' in Johannesburg on Tuesday night.
Protesters disrupted the book launch of 'Gangster State' in Johannesburg on Tuesday night.
Image: Penguins Books SA via Twitter

The "hooligans" and "thugs" who disrupted investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh's book launch, tearing up copies of his book Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture, and attempting to intimidate shoppers, have been widely denounced across the political spectrum.

The Congress of the People (Cope) called on the police to deal harshly with the protesters.

"Cope will not be silenced when our freedom is under threat. We fought for the media to be free - freedom of speech must be protected," spokesperson Dennis Bloem said in a statement on Wednesday.

LISTEN | Pieter-Louis Myburgh comments on book launch disruption

Protesters shouting their support for ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule stormed the launch of Myburgh's book at Exclusive Books in Sandton City mall on Tuesday evening.

They stormed into the store singing and holding up posters declaring "Hands off SG Ace".

The protesters shouted at customers, telling them: “Go! Go! Why are you prosecuting Ace Magashule? They can’t call us [k-word] any more; now they call us corrupt!”

The book details Magashule’s dealings as a struggle activist in the 1980s and later as premier of the Free State, and his rise to one of the ANC's most influential positions.

The ANC has distanced itself from the disruption of the launch as well as plans by the ANCYL in the Free State to burn copies of the book.

ANC acting national spokesperson Dakota Legoete said that those who disrupted the launch had not done so in the name of the governing party nor on behalf of Magashule.

"Our constitutional democracy enjoins us to defend every citizen's right to freedom of speech, irrespective of whether we agree with the contents or not.

"The ANC appeals to all its structures to observe and adhere to the letter and spirit of our Constitution," Legoete said.

The ANC's chief whip in parliament, Jackson Mthembu, vowed that he would lobby for the protesters to face internal disciplinary proceedings.

"Those thugs have brought the ANC name into disrepute. They have trashed our hard-won democracy," Mthembu said.

"These thugs who purport to be ANC members must also be arrested for their actions at the #GangsterState book launch last night. Their actions were criminal, anti-democracy and anti- freedom of speech . They threatened the author, publisher and all those in attendance," said Mthembu.

"We must all, as members of the ANC, defend our glorious movement against these thugs and criminals. We must defend the rights of the author and publisher as enshrined in our constitution. These thugs must not be allowed to drag our good name into their dastardly ends."

The DA Youth, condemning the protesters' actions, said it was it was similar to censorship.

"The ambush of this book launch is indicative of an ANC which has lost its way and of an organisation which is incapable of self-introspection and self-correction. The ANC, in an attempt to cling onto their dwindling grasp on power, has now resorted to chaos, thuggery and anarchy to hold onto its grip over government," youth leader Luyolo Mphithi said.

Mphithi said Ramaphosa was surrounded by "criminals and thugs" who belonged in jail.

Myburgh's Twitter has been flooded with support since the incident.

One comment read: "Your experience may have felt like a step backwards, but these are the type of events that open eyes to the truth and is in fact a step in the right direction. You have suffered an annoyance, they have lost their credibility and a lot of sympathy."

After the book store had been closed due to the protest, Myburgh sat down with a "cold one" and shared: "A toast to South Africa. I love this country with every ounce of my being and I’ll continue to add my voice to those who believe in its future. Regardless of the best efforts of those who hate democracy."