Just days ahead of this weekend’s Johannesburg Pride, the event has been plunged into another crisis.
The chief organiser of Saturday’s Johannesburg Pride in Newtown has told Mambaonline that she has been repeatedly assaulted and threatened by thugs demanding that she cancel the event.
Speaking on Monday, Johannesburg Pride Project Manager Kaye Ally said that she feared for her life, claiming that she was being victimised by someone who does not want the event to take place.
According to Ally, the spate of violent incidents began in the early hours of 23 August when three men broke into her home as she slept.
The men, wearing balaclavas, held a gun to her head and stole her laptop, cell phone and tablet as well memory sticks and two files on Johannesburg Pride.
“They said they know I’m gay and they won’t rape me, that they weren’t there for that,” said Ally.
She was tasered and beaten during the attack, which she says was reported to the police.
Ally explained that she at first didn’t associate the incident with Joburg Pride and that she only later came to believe that the two were linked.
Two weeks ago, continued Ally, she was again attacked – this time in a parking lot in Epson Downs, near her workplace.
“I was getting out of my car. I had my back to them and I didn’t see them. They pushed me down onto the car. I had a knife jabbed into my side and I was told to stop and cancel Joburg Pride,” claims Ally, adding that “It was the first time I directly associated these attacks with Joburg Pride.”
This Sunday, Ally says that a similar incident took place as she was getting into her car in Fordsburg.
“I was once again caught off guard. I was pinned down at my car. They said to me that I don’t seem to be understanding English and that I must cancel Joburg Pride or next time they’ll teach me a lesson.”
Ally says that she has not been able to clearly see or identify her attackers, other than that they were men.
She also claims that she has received numerous unusual and disturbing calls from a private number and that calls have also been made to her workplace about her sexuality and incorrectly claiming that she was violating her work contract by also “working” as an employee for Joburg Pride.
Kaye spoke to Mambaonline telephonically while attending an emergency meeting of the Pride planning committee. She was unable to say what the impact of these incidents might be on the upcoming event.
“I can’t answer that question at this point,” she said. “As far as I am concerned I am committed to Pride. I’m not going to let petty criminals sway my dedication to Pride. We are planning to discuss Saturday’s event to look at all angles. We are brainstorming the risks around the event.”
She added that a final decision would be taken by the planning committee, who would be voting on how to proceed. A press release will be issued on Wednesday.
“We will look at all the threats and take it seriously. I would put the safety and security of the community before anything else. My involvement stands steadfast but the way forward is not determined by me alone.”
In the meantime, Ally will be provided with security and will ensure that she is never alone at any time.
When asked who she believes might be behind the incidents, Ally replied: “I absolutely have no idea. Johannesburg Pride has been running for 24 years. I can’t see why anyone would want to stop this. We want to work for the community…”
Johannesburg Pride has been embroiled in controversy this year. In April, the company that had put on the previous six Joburg Prides closed its doors. The volunteer board cited growing workloads and complications related to putting on the event behind their decision.
Ally’s planning committee, which claims the 24 year Johannesburg Pride heritage, was one of two groups that took on the task of putting on a Pride event in the city. Another group, asserting more community based support, plans to hold a People’s Pride event on Saturday 5 October.
A shocked Kwezilomso Mbandazayo from People’s Pride told Mambaonline: “We condemn whoever is responsible for these acts and hope that they stop and face justice. Nobody should be intimidated or threatened in any way because they are organisers.
“We are not involved; it’s something we are very much against. Our working group is all about non-violence and freedom of expression. We would never try to clamp down on anyone else.”
She added: “We hope that the event goes as planned and goes well and that the spirit of what they are trying to do or organise does not get hampered”.