Johannesburg Pride venue controversy gets mainstream coverage

finding-a-platform-for-pride_johannesburg_prideThe Sunday Times has now weighed in on the debate around this year’s venue for Johannesburg Pride in an article published this weekend.

The 2016 event is taking place on Saturday 29 October at Melrose Arch, an upmarket residential, office and retail precinct; a fact that has led some to classify the Pride as exclusionary.

Speaking to the newspaper, activist and filmmaker Bev Ditsie, who was one of the founders of the first Johannesburg Pride in 1990, distanced herself from the upcoming event.

She described it as “a celebration of whiteness and freedom” that did not address LGBT people who continued to be persecuted in the townships.

Thami Kotlolo, former member of the Zoo Lake-based Joburg Pride Board (which was disbanded after the infamous 2012 altercation with feminist activists), also questioned the appropriateness of the location.

“Who are we talking to in Melrose Arch? I feel the event is too commercialised,” he said. Kotlolo argued that “the struggle of gay men and lesbians in the township was different from those in urban areas”.

He said that Melrose Arch “caters for the privileged majority – white gays and only a few black gays” and pointed out that his board had transported people who couldn’t afford to get to Zoo Lake to and from the venue.

It is worth noting that, at the time, Zoo Lake also came under considerable criticism from activists as a venue because it too is in a suburban area. It was also slammed as being exclusionary on the basis of class, socio-economic status and race.

Kaye Ally, current Johannesburg Pride organiser, has dismissed the complaints against her event. “We are a Pride for all,” she told the Sunday Times. “We know corrective rape is not right, but we cannot focus on one aspect, we need to cater for the whole LGBT community.”

She also said that without funding Pride could not organise transport and insisted that the event had to appeal to a younger generation.

Meanwhile, other Pride events in the city appear to be in disarray. Soweto Pride was recently postponed after city authorities raised its risk rating at the last minute; leading to additional costs and restrictions. A new date has not been confirmed. People’s Pride, set up in 2013 as a more radical, political and inclusive alternative to Johannesburg Pride, has yet to announce a date for this year.

For more on the debate on the 2016 Johannesburg Pride venue, read our article Finding a Platform for Johannesburg Pride. For details on Saturday’s Pride, click here.


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