Joburg Pride shuts down

2013-04-03 15:44

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Africa’s largest Pride parade is facing an uncertain future.

Its organisers have announced that they have quit – just days ahead of activists calling for a boycott of this year’s event.

The Joburg Pride Board has released a statement confirming that it is shutting down the company that stages the annual Joburg Pride Parade. The news, broken by LGBTI website Mambaonline.com, means that Africa’s first ever annual pride parade may not happen this year.

“There’s been a lot of soul searching to come to this decision,” the Joburg Pride Festival Company’s chair Tanya Hartford told the website. Hartford featured prominently in the news for her harsh handling of a protest by the 1 in 9 Campaign at last year’s parade.

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However, the public criticism that the committee faced is not the primary reason cited for the closure of the company that has run Pride for seven years.

In their statement they say that the unanimous decision was made after the company lost the use of the Zoo Lake Sports Club as a venue and also lost the support of the police to secure the event, “as well as the loss of support by the two local ward councillors for the event to happen in their precinct”.

“The interruption of last year’s Joburg Pride march by the activist group 1 in 9 was also a factor in our reasoning,” says the statement. “1 in 9’s unfortunate interruption of Pride 2012 shifted the event from a low-risk event into a high-risk category, which would negatively impact on our operational structures and budgets going forward.

“It provided great short-term publicity for 1 in 9, but created far-reaching negative publicity for Joburg Pride. Ultimately, all of these factors combined would impact on the time and financial limitations of the (Joburg Pride) board.”

Their statement cites their successes in growing the event to 20 000 marchers and turning Pride into a weekend-long celebration that unites the city’s LGBTI community.

Critics disagree on the latter, saying the event increasingly separated black and white gay issues and failed to acknowledge its political roots. In fact, the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) and 1 in 9 were reportedly about to call for a boycott of this year’s Pride.

Their views were posted on Facebook recently: “From being an event that celebrated political struggle and claimed space for all members of LGBT communities, Joburg Pride has become a capitalist and consumerist gay parade that takes place in a predominantly white and wealthy suburb, is sponsored by multinational corporations and businesses, and is an event that only the economically wealthy sections of LGBT and queer communities are able to fully participate in.”

Hartford responded, telling Mambaonline.com: “The 1 in 9 action has had an impact in terms of the security assessment of Pride, which increases the onus on Pride to add more security.

“We hope that FEW and 1 in 9 will be able to take Joburg Pride forward. It’s a massive undertaking. Good luck to anybody who takes that on. We only wish everyone well.”

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