In a shock development, Johannesburg Pride, due to take place this Saturday in Newtown, has been postponed at the eleventh hour and will now instead take place in Sandton at the end of October.
In a press statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Johannesburg Pride Project Manager Kaye Ally announced that “due to circumstances much beyond our control, we’re moving the 24th Annual Johannesburg Pride Festival to the Sandton precinct on the 26th October 2013.”
According to Ally, the decision was taken in light of recent events and concerns “with regards to the LGBTIAQ community’s well-being”.
“As a result, the committee decided at a crisis meeting that Mary Fitzgerald Square being a ‘high risk highly exposed’ area would not be suitable to host this year’s 2013 event,” she said.
The event was billed as going “back to our roots” with a route and venue change from Rosebank to the city centre, which many LGBTI activists had been clamouring for. Ally and her Pride committee even staged a walkthrough of the route in order to show the safety of the city as a venue.
She also faced stinging criticism for scheduling the event on the same day as Soweto Pride, which she defended at the time by insisting that the date had been Johannesburg Pride’s original spot on the calendar in the first place.
When Mambaonline asked Ally if the latest developments did not now contradict her position on these issues, she responded that “we can’t put people’s well-being at risk”.
She said that “there’s been an influx of criminal activity in the area. There’s a new group of petty criminals coming into the Newtown area and the SAPS have not been able to get them under control”.
Ally said that two recent events on Mary Fitzgerald Square had experienced security concerns and “had numerous criminal activities associated with them”.
On Monday, Ally told Mambaonline that she had been violently attacked three times in the last few weeks by thugs who demanded that she cancel Johannesburg Pride or face the consequences.
She said that these events had also played a role in the committee’s decision, explaining that friction within the LGBTI community about the clash of pride events could have led to the attacks.
“This was such a difficult decision for us to make at this time but if we have to be the bigger event then I will go through the pain of relocating the event. I would not want to put someone through what I went through,” she said.
“The last three months have been very trying on me, on us as a committee and have been trying on us as a community. If this is coming from the community then we need to bridge the gap. Something has to give,” she continued. ”
Ally said that in future Johannesburg Pride will be held at the end of October so as to avoid any further date clashes. “We will attend all the other prides leading up to Johannesburg Pride and extend an invitation that they attend our event in solidarity.”
Ally denied any rumours about problems with the organisation of the event and said that these are defaming Johannesburg Pride. “We know who is starting these rumours and have issued a legal notice to those parties,” she added.
Ally said that more information about Johannesburg Pride in Sandton will be released in the coming days.
Soweto Pride is set to take place this Saturday 28 September, while both Joburg People’s Pride in Braamfontein and Pretoria Pride in Centurion will be held on Saturday 5 October.