Soweto Pride, one of the most significant and historic LGBTI events in South Africa, will return on 30 September, following last year’s shock cancellation.
The welcome news was announced by the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) on Friday, after what it admitted was a “challenging” year.
“FEW staff members have worked tirelessly to ensure that Soweto Pride continues in 2017,” said the organisation.
“Their remarkable efforts see this year’s Soweto Pride categorisation as a low risk event. This enables FEW to continue to grant access to the much required safe and celebratory spaces for LGTBI persons.”
FEW said that, “in the spirit of the coerced cancellation of Soweto Pride 2016, the theme for 2017 is ‘Reclaiming our right to organise!’”
Last year’s event was cancelled just days before it was set to take place when the authorities threatened to shut it down.
After 11 years, the police, emergency services and City of Johannesburg unexpectedly classed Soweto Pride as “medium risk”, apparently due to “unruly behaviour” at the previous year’s event. This meant that the organisers would have had to pay R146,000 for additional police officers, marshals and security guards.
The city also barred attendees from bringing their own alcohol to the venue, which had been the norm in the past. At the time, FEW described the demands as “a deliberate attempt by state entities to discourage and stamp out all forms of political protest”.
While Soweto Pride has now been restored to its “low risk” rating, the organisation has agreed to the city’s restrictions on alcohol and announced that none may be brought to the event. It will instead be sold at the venue. FEW explained that the authorities are imposing stricter measures on city events with regard to alcohol to reduce security and safety concerns.
“Particularly in relation to Soweto Pride 2015, SAPS is of the opinion that uncontrollable behaviour was exacerbated by excessive alcohol consumption and that selling alcohol at the venue will decrease the chances of uncontrollable behaviour,” said FEW.
It appealed to the LGBTI community “to act responsibly before, during and after Soweto Pride 2017,” adding that, “Soweto Pride belongs to all of us, let us all make a meaningful contribution to the sustainability of our Pride.”
Soweto Pride 2017 will take place on 30 September at Dorothy Nyembe Park, Dobsonville, Soweto. The gates will be open from 09:00 to 17:00.