The seventh Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, taking place early next month in the town of Knysna, has become the target of a concerted anti-gay campaign.
Mambaonline has been forwarded numerous e-mails that have been sent to sponsors and companies threatening them with boycotts if they continue to support the annual gay and lesbian festival.
Businesses such as Standard Bank and Ocean Basket have been targeted by a flurry of emails from apparently outraged Knysna residents.
“I am absolutely shocked and disappointed at Standard Bank’s support in [sic] a homosexual festival in our beautiful town,” writes one ‘concerned resident.’
“I would gladly remove my R5 or R50 000 to another bank, before compromising my integrity and be part of something unacceptable for a large part of this community that believes in moral values. We love people, but do not support perversity, lust, immorality,” the e-mail writer goes on to say.
The organiser of the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, Juan Lerm, has also received a number of anti-gay e-mails. One, written by a self proclaimed “bona fide homophobe,” William Lee Rittmann reads:
“I wish to inform you that Knysna doesn’t want you or your festival here. Your actions are offensive and obscene. The time has come for you and the ‘festival’ to get chucked out of our town. Happy landings… Expect opposition, expect a lack of support. This will go down in history as one of the greatest failures of the gay movement, and a victory for morality.”
Another e-mail, from a Ridwaan Omar, who claims to represent the Knysna Muslim Council, says that the local Muslim community objects to the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras taking place in Knysna.
“We have already raised our objection with the municipality… All god fearing people have raised there [sic] strong objection to this festival. The constitution of South Africa allows you freedom of sexual orientation, but this does not mean that this sexual orientation should be flaunted in our streets.”
Lerm has responded with counter-threats of legal action towards the individuals, claiming that the e-mails are an attempt to damage his business and livelihood.
He said that while there has previously been some minor opposition from a local church group to the event, the scale of this campaign is unprecedented. Describing the e-mails as “unconstitutional” and “hate speech” he has also said that he will take the matter to the Human Rights Commission.
The 2008 Pink Loerie Mardi Gras takes place from 1 to 4 May.