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Freedom of speech must be protected

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The problem with the ANCYL members, in general, is that many do not read books unless it contains gossip in bite-sized chunks like a Twitter thread on Sunday morning

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule. File picture: ANA/Itumeleng English

SOUTH Africa can at times be a ­country of glaring contradictions and ironies which leave the casual observer grasping for common sense.

How else does one explain the threats delivered, in a press statement, by the ANC Youth League in the Free State to host a book-burning event at a local rubbish dump in Bloemfontein next week.

The subject of their anger is ­Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s latest book, Gangster State, in which the central character is former Free State premier and current ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.

The book alleges that Magashule has been involved in wide-scale corruption and manipulation of ANC processes and patronage.

It should be stated that ANC politics, post-1994, has been driven mostly by patronage. On Tuesday at the book’s launch in Sandton, a few thugs, some dressed in ANC T-shirts, disrupted the event, forcing organisers to call it off.

Book burnings have only happened in fascist regimes, and dictatorships.

If those thugs, dressed up as ANCYL members, actually studied the history of the ANC they would know that former party president OR Tambo himself advocated South Africa’s current rights-based constitutional order which guarantees freedom of speech – not book burnings.

The problem with the ANCYL members, in general, is that many do not read books unless it contains gossip in bite-sized chunks like a Twitter thread on Sunday morning.

The threats by the ANCYL in the Free State is the culmination of the anti-intellectualism which thrived in some corners of the ANC, encouraged by former president Jacob Zuma, whose rise to power came on the back of defeating the party’s intellectual elites, like Thabo Mbeki.

South Africa should never cower before these bullies. Next thing they’ll be calling for the destruction of textbooks and jailing of political opponents.

If Magashule has a problem with a book, he can lodge a case with the High Court against the publishers.

Hard-won rights such as freedom of speech should be defended, as they are the pillars of our democracy.