Varsity 'cowardly' for postponing 'Gangster State' book launch

The postponement of the book launch 'has all the hallmarks of cowardice in the face of pressure to cancel the event from powerful forces in the Free State,' says publisher Steve Connolly.
Gangster State: The postponement of the book launch 'has all the hallmarks of cowardice in the face of pressure to cancel the event from powerful forces in the Free State,' says publisher Steve Connolly.
Image: PRH

Penguin Random House (PRH) on Thursday slammed the University of the Free State for cancelling the launch of Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture, penned by journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh.

The publishing company said the launch had been advertised "for some time", adding that it was cancelled without it or the author being informed.

The event was arranged in partnership with the UFS Business School and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) for next Thursday May 23.

PRH CEO Steve Connolly said the company believed the event was cancelled on the advice of the university's security department.

"It is the university's role to stand up for free speech, and the security office is there to defend that right if necessary.

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

The controversial book is about ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and his alleged links to state capture in the Free State, where he served as premier.

Magashule has denied any wrongdoing. 

The provincial ANC youth league had threatened to burn copies of the book after its release, and the Sandton launch was disrupted in April by protesters chanting "Ace, Ace".

UFS spokesperson Lacea Loader said the university conducted risk and threat assessments for all of its events to ensure the protection of students, staff and infrastructure.  

"All risk and threat assessments are based on the evaluation of all information collected in respect of the specific event, as well as on environmental scanning in the community the university operates in.

"The assessment on the discussion of Gangster State, the book by Pieter-Louis Myburgh, was based on a similar exercise that indicates that the event could be disrupted, putting the UFS, its staff and students at risk," Loader said.

Loader said the event had been postponed to the second semester.


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