A crowd of about 80 people occupied the road in front of Iziko Slave Lodge in Adderley Street on Monday in solidarity with author Pieter-Louis Myburgh, following the disruption of the launch of his book, Gangster State, in Johannesburg.
Some protesters stood at the corner of Adderley and Darling Streets to block the traffic. Police were on the scene to redirect traffic.
Protesters chanted: “Amandla, awethu!” (“Power to the People”) and sang: “Ubumbano” (“Unity”). Some read excerpts from books that were banned during the apartheid era.
Protesters held posters proclaiming: “In Our Democracy, We Dare To Know” and: “ANC Recall Ace Magashule.”
“When people start banning, and banning books, or don’t want others to read books, then we’re in trouble,” said Marcus Solomon, who was banned for five years by the apartheid government, to the crowd. “Especially when some of those books contain information that might tell us why we are in a country where there is still so much poverty.”
Myburgh’s book, Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture, accuses ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule of corruption. Protests against the book disrupted the Johannesburg book launch at Exclusive Books in Sandton City on April 9, storming in with posters declaring “#HandsOff SG Ace” and ripping apart some copies of the book.
The Johannesburg incident was followed by the cancellation of the book launch at the Waterfront branch of Exclusive Books. The Free State ANC Youth League have also threatened to host a bonfire and destroy copies of the book.
Methodist minister Alan Storey said to the crowd: “Freedom is dependent on truth, and we all know that no one has a monopoly on the truth — no single person, no single religion, political party, organisation, government — no one knows all the truth. The way we get to the truth is by humbly sharing our truth with one another. Freedom is dependent on truth and truth is dependent on humility.”
The event was organised by civil society coalition #UniteBehind. Members of other organisations including Equal Education, Extinction Rebellion, and Reclaim the City also took part.
Equal Education facilitator Siyasanga Vilakati said: “I am here to try to put a stop to corruption … raising my voice as a citizen of South Africa to say that we know what you’re trying to hide.”
First published on GroundUp.
Kristine Liao, GroundUp / The Citizen