Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Free State university makes U-turn on Gangster State book event

By Getrude Makhafola Time of article published May 20, 2019

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Johannesburg - After initially cancelling an event to discuss journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh's book 'Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture', the University of the Free State (UFS) says the event will now go ahead as planned on Thursday.

The institution last week postponed the event at its Bloemfontein campus, saying this followed a risk assessment.

"The executive management re-assessed this decision and felt that the platform for intellectual debate and discourse, coupled with the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression, should be honoured and hence recommended that the UFS Business School continue with the book discussion," the university said.

"Furthermore, the university wants to reiterate that freedom of expression is not an absolute and should be seen within a particular context. The university welcomes and appreciates the fact that Mr Myburgh agreed to continue with the book discussion."

Book publisher Penguin Random House had lashed out at the university for canceling the event, saying the UFS should stand up for free speech. CEO Steve Conolly said although the Cape Town leg of the launch at Waterfront was initially cancelled last month, it was subsequently moved to a place nearby where it proceeded peacefully.

"Obviously, we do not have all the details, but this has all the hallmarks of cowardice in the face of pressure to cancel the event from powerful forces in the Free State," he said in a statement last Thursday.

The ruling African National Congress's (ANC) secretary general Ace Magashule is the subject of Myburgh's book detailing alleged plundering of the Free State province's public funds when he was premier for almost two decades.

His supporters in the province, most notably members of the ANC Youth League, have since come to his defense, labeling the book as propaganda.

A book launch event at Johannesburg's Sandton mall in April was disrupted when a group wearing ANC t-shirts stormed the venue, forcing Myburgh to abandon the event. Magashule's supporters in the Free State halted their plans to burn copies of the book at a Bloemfontein dump site after ANC top brass at its Luthuli House headquarters intervened, condemning the burning of books.

African News Agency/ANA

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