The University of the Free State has been slammed after cancelling a public book event for 'Gangster State.' Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - The University of the Free State (UFS) has been slammed after cancelling a public book event for 'Gangster State.'

"We believe the University cancelled the event on the advice of the security department there. It is the University’s role to stand up for free speech, and the security office is there to defend that right if necessary," said Penguin Random House CEO Steve Connolly. 

Penguin Random House said in a statement that it was "stunned" that UFS had cancelled the event without informing the publishing company or the author, journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh.

“The first Cape Town launch of Gangster State was similarly cancelled on the advice of the Waterfront security team, but we managed to move the event a kilometre or two away and it passed off peacefully. When it was rescheduled in the Waterfront a week later it also passed off peacefully.”

The company said that while some of the details remain unknown, the cancellation of the event "has all the hallmarks of cowardice in the face of pressure to cancel the event from powerful forces in the Free State."

Myburgh's book describes alleged capture of the Free State by former provincial premier Ace Magashule. It is believed that the capture happened for almost a decade. Millions of rand of taxpayers money was allegedly looted and the beneficiaries of this money included the Guptas and former president Jacob Zuma.

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