The ANC has stepped in to call off a plot by the Free State ANC Youth League (ANCYL) to host a ceremonial book-burning of Gangster State by Pieter-Louis Myburgh. This was after a poster circulating on social media publicised a bonfire which was scheduled for 15 April at the Mangaung dumping site.
“We are not going to burn it because the ANC said we must not burn it, and we listen to the ANC,” ANCYL Free State Provincial Spokesperson Sello Pietersen told Daily Maverick, shortly before a statement was released by the ANC confirming that the ANC had intervened and that the event had been called off.
Pietersen told Daily Maverick, however, that the Free State ANCYL would continue their campaign to “reject” and “abandon” the controversial book.
“We are going to continue to offer our alternative perspectives with regards to the lies peddled in that book,” he said.
He claims that the only aspect of their campaign that has been discussed with the national ANC is the foiled plot to burn the book.
According to the ANC statement, the planned book-burning was a violation of the right to Freedom of Expression.
“The freedom of expression is a principle we fought for, that many died for, and which is sacrosanct in our young democracy,” the statement, issued by Dakota Legoete, Acting National Spokesperson, said.
The campaign was allegedly supported by the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and the South African Students Congress (SASCO), with both logos displayed on the poster advertising the book burning. When contacted on Wednesday morning, however, representatives of both organisations, declined to give comment on their involvement.
In a statement released later on Wednesday, COSAS Western Cape made it clear that they “stand in support” of Ace Magashule, who is the former Premier of the Free State and currently Secretary-General of the ANC.
“As COSAS Western Cape we stand in solidarity with the Secretary General of the ANC and all progressive forces of Radical Economic Transformation and seek to tell them they are not alone and they must not despair,” the Cosas statement issued by Provincial Secretary Michael Mayalo said.
ANCYL National Spokesperson Mondli Mkhize, told Daily Maverick that the national Youth League did not publicly support the Free State branch’s plans. However, they “appreciate what the comrades of the Free State are saying as parts of the things contained in the book is lies” (sic).
This comes after ANC Youth League supporters disrupted the book launch at Sandton City Exclusive Books on Tuesday 9 April, where they ripped copies of the book and subsequently, the launch was forced to shut down.
ANC parliamentary Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu said on Twitter that “those thugs have brought the ANC name into disrepute. They have trashed our hard (won) democracy”.
In a statement, the Presiding Officers of Parliament, led by Speaker Baleka Mbete and Chairperson Thandi Modise, “condemned, in the strongest terms, the repulsive acts of criminality and flagrant attack on the key principles of our Constitutional democracy” by threats to burn copies of the book and the disruption of its launch.
On Twitter, the South African National Editors’ Forum referred to Tuesday’s disruption as a violation of the freedom of expression.
“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,” they said.
The ANC also threatened to take disciplinary action against any of their members who they find were involved in Tuesday’s disruption.
“Those who claim to be doing this hooliganism in our name, if they are found to be our members, the ANC disciplinary code will kick in.”
Myburgh, who is an Investigative Journalist for Daily Maverick’s Scorpio, said that Tuesday’s disruption was a “sad indictment on the [ANC] and its ability to debate on issues in a democratic and constructive manner.”
“We are continuing with all the scheduled events because it is our constitutionally enshrined right to discuss these matters in the public and to enjoy free speech. Nobody should be deterred by individuals or groups who do not view Freedom of Speech in that manner,” he said.
The publisher’s of the book, Penguin Random House, said they were “appalled” by Tuesday’s protest action.
In a statement issued on Wednesday Surita Joubert said: “We are equally concerned that members of the ANC Youth League have threatened to convene a mass book-burning in Bloemfontein,” she said.
The next book launch is happening on Thursday evening at 11 April at Exclusive Books V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. DM