Protestors at the book launch of Gangster State in Sandton on Tuesday night. Picture: @PenguinBooksSA

Johannesburg - Penguin Random House, publisher of 'Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture' on Wednesday said it would not be silenced following a protest during the book launch event in Johannesburg.

The publishing house said it would continue with the book launch at Exclusive Books shops, with the next event taking place in Cape Town on Thursday.

"We would like to thank all those engaging critically with the book, and we encourage all peace-loving citizens and members of the media to attend future Gangster State events to take the discussion further," the publishers said in a statement. 

"The next book launch will be tomorrow, Thursday 11 April at 6pm for 6.30pm at Exclusive Books V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, and will be moderated by [News24 editor] Adriaan Basson. We hope that Ace Magashule and his supporters get the message that no amount of intimidation will deter us. Whether it is threats to go to court, the disruption of book launches or the burning of books, we will not be silenced.

"We welcome the [African National Congress'] ANC’s statement condemning those who undermine citizens’ freedom to speak, write and publish. We specifically call on the leadership of the ANC, under President Cyril Ramaphosa, to personally ensure that there will be no further disruptions or violence at Gangster State events in the coming days and weeks."

A group of protesters, some of them clad in ANC t-shirts, stormed the book launch in Sandton on Tuesday night, forcing author and journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh to abandon the event. They chanted songs praising former Free State premier Magashule, who is now the ANC secretary-general. 

Copies of the book on display were thrown on the floor and pages were torn out by the protesters. Plans by the ANC Youth League Free State to burn copies on Monday in Bloemfontein in defence of Magashule have been widely condemned. 

ANC caucus leader Jackson Mthembu called for the arrest of the Sandton protesters.

"Their actions were criminal, anti-democracy and anti-freedom of speech. They threatened the author, publisher and all those in attendance. We must all, as members of 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," Mthembu posted on Twitter.

Magashule on Wednesday said those who call on the burning of books and disruption of book launch events should "desist".

"The constitution and laws of the country allow for channels to follow when we disagree with information and ideas, whether in books or the media. I have indicated to my organisation that I am pursuing legal action against the false allegations made in the book. In addition, where we disagree with views expressed in books, the media and other platforms, we must use peaceful and constitutional means to engage those who peddle lies and fake news," Magashule said in a statement.

"Those purporting to be ANC members and supporter disrupting book launches, burn books and intimidate authors and journalists in my name or to be revolutionary should desist, because these are actions of political intolerance, and against freedom of expression for all South African."

The book, published earlier this month details a damning account of corruption under Magashule's premiership of the Free State and alleges that he pocketed R230 million in kickbacks on an asbestos deal.  Myburgh alleges that Magashule captured the province while at the helm, demanding a 10 percent kickback from every provincial government tender. 

Speaking to eNCA on Wednesday, Myburgh said he is yet to hear from Magashule's lawyers after the latter told journalists that he would take the author to court.

African News Agency (ANA)