2019-04-10 06:25
The launch of Gangster State by Pieter-Louis Myburgh was disrupted. (Felix Dlangamanda, Netwerk24)

The launch of Gangster State by Pieter-Louis Myburgh was disrupted. (Felix Dlangamanda, Netwerk24)

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Dear President Ramaphosa,

Yesterday's events signify a new low for the ANC, the party of which you are the leader.

The cowardly attack on author Pieter-Louis Myburgh and Exclusive Books, the store that launched his book Gangster State: Unraveling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture, represented an assault on freedom of speech, the rule of law and on democracy itself.

And the announcement by your party's youth league in the Free State, the province that Magashule ruled with an iron fist for a decade, that they will burn Gangster State at a party-sanctioned and hosted event at a rubbish dump, is reminiscent of what happens in a fascist state.

Gangster State

I don't doubt that you are disgusted in the Exclusive Books debacle or agree that plans to burn books are nothing short of moronic.

But your party is becoming Magashule's party.

Yesterday's events were all planned and executed by supporters of Magashule, your highly problematic and ethically dubious secretary general.

The attack on a bookstore and plans to burn books is a test for your leadership. You must take a public stand if your message of ethical leadership is to be believed. This is what good leaders do: when order in society is challenged by violence, backwardness and criminality they rely on principle and light the way. And they do this for the greater good of the country, not in the narrow interests of only one section.

You are no doubt aware of the symbolism attached to book burnings, given that tolerance for similar events in Nazi Germany in the 1930s served to embolden the fascists and nationalists to close down space for dissent and freedom.

And the manner in which Magashule's brownshirts – and there's no doubt they were ANC supporters – proceeded to disrupt Myburgh's book launch, destroying private property and threatening customers is a serious accusation against your organisation. When no action is taken against people like Magashule, this type of thuggish behaviour thrives.

It also tells us Magashule has a lot to hide. You don't react this way if the book really is, as your party stated last Sunday, "fake news", "propaganda" and "stratcom".

If Myburgh's book were trash, as your party believes it to be, then surely Magashule would either laugh it off or sue him. But your close colleague and the chief executive of your party has done neither. His agents and supporters rather opted to intimidate the author and the public and to host a book burning, a grotesque spectacle.

Is Magashule really the type of person you would defend to the last? Is he the type of leader you want by your side when you attempt to enact your reformist agenda? Is he the type of cadre the ANC wants to deploy to carry forward the work of the party's past leaders?

Gangster State

I was about 30 metres from you at Nasrec when Magashule was elected secretary general and clearly remember your face when he defeated Senzo Mchunu, your preferred candidate. You stared blankly ahead of you and looked decidedly shocked. Then you took a moment and rubbed your eyes stood up to greet Magashule as he strode towards you on the podium. It was obvious you didn't expect it, that you were shocked and that you knew what was coming.

Magashule's conniving and backbiting was always going to be your biggest challenge. Allegations of his corruption of government and party have been common knowledge for years.

Your predecessors – Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki – both knew of Magashule's gerrymandering and intimidation tactics in the Free State. And they were both aware of the highly questionable manner in which Magashule managed the affairs of government in the Free State.

Mister President, have you gone to the trouble of reading Myburgh's book? Or have you asked your legal adviser or anyone else that you trust, for that matter, to prepare a briefing document for you?

Gangster State isn't a thumb-suck, it's a meticulous record of Magashule's various irregular and quite possible illegal dealings over more than a decade.

It sets out, in great detail, and with prominent sources going on the record, how Magashule established a network of cronies and tenderpreneurs to help fund and finance his grip on power and patronage. The book shows how Magashule operated, how he ensured that certain contractors succeeded in their bids for government contracts and how they in turn greased his palm to show fealty towards the Don of the Free State.

Take Igo Mpambani, Mister President, whose company won a tender of R255m to conduct an audit of housing in the Free State but cleared more than R230m in profit after subcontracting to another company to do the actual work – which, by the way, wasn't necessary. And Mpambani had a spreadsheet in which he denoted payments of R10m and R1m to one "AM". And he had emails from Magashule's office that instructed him on how to use his ill-gotten gains.

When Magashule wanted to ensure victory in a regional ANC contest, what did he do, Mister President? He ordered that cattle belonging to a state-owned agricultural college be slaughtered and the meat be sent to the party conference and distributed among delegates.

He also claims he was a leading light in the United Democratic Front during the darkest days of apartheid. Not so, say people who served on the UDF's executive committee during that time. At the Zondo commission into state capture, it was heard that he took bribes from the Guptas, Zuma's friends.

Surely this isn't someone you want to lead the the rejuvenation of your organisation after the corruption and deprivation of the Zuma years?

And even beyond the detailed allegations in Myburgh's book, look at the man's record in government. My colleagues Sarah Evans and Azarrah Karrim trawled through a decade's worth of reports by the auditor-general and Statistics South Africa. Governance – financial and otherwise – in the Free State is in a shambles.

Is this the type of man you want managing the ANC's administration?

I understand it is difficult to remove Magashule. Your executive committee remains divided and he is an elected official, which puts him in a stronger position than Zuma was last year before you removed him.

But you have options. Your national conferences in 2007, 2012 and 2017 adopted resolutions about leaders bringing the party into disrepute and you have an integrity commission that can investigate the claims against Magashule. He might be difficult to dislodge, but you have some room to manoeuvre. You need to mobilise support and make a case for action to be taken against him. (Funny how we aren't even talking about the Hawks' and the NPA's role in all of this.)

Disrupting book launches will not in any stop this book from being read. There will be more book launches. The law must take its course. It will.

— Derek Hanekom (@Derek_Hanekom) April 9, 2019 ">

Mister President, your party gave us grand corruption, state capture and impunity. If you tolerate gangsters and thugs, if you fail to provide visible leadership in times where authors are attacked and book burnings are glorified, then you will be nothing but an extension of the nine lost years that you spoke of in Davos.

Then the ANC will truly become Ace's ANC. And you'll see many more books like Gangster State.

Yours faithfully,

Pieter du Toit

Journalist, News24

Read more on:    cyrial ramaphosa  |  ace maga­shule  |  state capture  |  corruption

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