Activists disrupt book launch, plan book burning – intellectual suppression on the rise

Staff Writer | Apr 11, 2019
Activists disrupted the launch of a book by Pieter-Louis Myburgh, Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture.

The Tuesday evening event was being held at Exclusive Books in the Sandton City shopping complex. News reports indicated that books in the store were defaced and destroyed, although no one was reported to have been injured. Myburgh left the venue.

The protesters were offended by the content of the book which painted an unflattering picture of the influence wielded by the current Secretary General of the African National Congress, Ace Magashule. They were reported to have been largely drawn from the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) – several wore ANC insignia. Placards reading ‘Stratcom State’ and “#HandsOff SG Ace” were displayed. The ANC distanced itself from the disruption.

The ANCYL in the Free State, along with the South African Students’ Congress and the Congress of South African Students, meanwhile, has indicated that it intends to burn copies of the book next week. A WhatsApp message advertising this event calls the work a ‘book of lies and propaganda’, with the capitalised phrase ‘LET’S BURN IT’ prominently displayed over an image of the cover of the book engulfed by flames. Attendees are asked to ‘bring along as many copies as possible or any material that reflects the barbaric past such as the old apartheid flag along to our fireplace.’

Reaction to the disruption of the book launch and to the envisaged burning of the book has received widespread public attention. Wits University Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said in a radio interview that it was time for political leaders to hold their supporters to account for violating the law. The Daily Maverick published an editorial which, among other things, reflected on the symbolism of book burning. It is, after all, a sinister tactic of intellectual suppression by authoritarian governments. Coincidentally, in April 1933, the German Student Union initiated a campaign to purge Jewish influence from German cultural and academic life. Pyres of books are an enduring memory of this.                                   


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