Attending Pretoria Pride, the Mayor of Tshwane, Solly Msimanga, has called on Africa’s leaders to protect and embrace the LGBTI community.
On Saturday, Msimanga joined hundreds of people for the Pride march through Centurion; believed to a first for a Gauteng mayor. Only Cape Town has previously seen a city’s mayor formally taking part in a South African Pride event.
Msimanga also delivered the keynote speech after the march, affirming the rights of the LGBTI community. He revealed that he’d attended Pretoria Pride twice before but this was the first time in his official capacity.
“This is not just for people to walk around and strut their stuff,” said Msimanga. “This is also to create awareness. This is to say that, ‘I am a human being just like you are. I’m not a freak, I’m not a mistake.'”
“We need to make sure that we protect [LGBTI people] and that we act against those who are hell-bent on ‘corrective [rape]’ and all of that nonsense. We need to educate people so that they understand that we all belong to the human race.”
Msimanga went on to call out countries in Africa that continue to have oppressive anti-LGBTI laws that criminalise, discriminate against and stigmatise people because of their sexuality or gender identity.
“We need to stand from the bottom of Africa and say, ‘Africa must wake up’. Now is the time that we send a message from the capital city that says: ‘It doesn’t matter, my sexual orientation. I am a human being and my rights are no less than what yours are.”
Msimanga promised to increase the city’s support for Pretoria Pride, which this year included providing buses to and from the event around the city. “Next year we want 100,000 people here,” he said. “We’ll even talk to the mayor of Joburg, the mayor of Ekurhuleni and others so that we increase the numbers.”
Turning to the parents of LGBTI children at Pride, he said: “I salute you. It’s not many parents who will stand next to their children and say ‘I support my daughter or I support my son irrespective of their sexual orientation’. I hope that many of our parents can wake up and say, ‘Whether my child is gay or lesbian, I will love and support my child.'”
Now in its fifth year, the annual event has become one of the most well-attended Prides in Africa. Held on the fields of the Centurion Rugby club, the day also included plenty of entertainment, bars, food sellers and community stalls. The festivities went on into the early evening before being interrupted by rain.
Pretoria Pride organiser Bruce Walker told Mambaonline that the event has continued to grow, with an estimated 6,000 people in the parade. “It was very diverse, people of all colours, and there were a lot of a families that attended as well as straight people supporting their friends and brothers and sisters.”
Echoing comments by the organisers of the recent Soweto Pride, Walker called on members of the LGBTI community to take part in the planning of the event, noting that a number of public meetings were held throughout the year. “Rather than just commenting from the sidelines, come and help make it better,” he said.