A kerfuffle has erupted on Facebook over issues related to the media sponsor for Joburg Pride 2009, which is set to take place in just over a week.

An e-mail from a Frik de Witt, who expresses concerns about the role of Gauteng radio station 94.7 Highveld Stereo in the event, has been widely circulated on the social networking site.

De Witt asks why it has not been made clear that Pride is a gay event in the on-air mentions promoting the parade on the station.

“This is turning into 94.7 Joburg Pride, being punted to straight people that have no idea what Pride is, and this opens us up to homophobic attacks. Uninformed people might take it that it is something similar to Joburg day, show up, and then only realise it is a gay event. I do not know how no one could foresee this as a possible risk of increasing the probability of a homophobic attack,” writes De Witt.

He accused the Joburg Pride Board of “selling out the gay community for corporate sponsorship,” noting that “this indeed is a sad day.” He further threatened to call for a boycott of the event.

The co-chairs of Joburg Pride, Zak Mbhele and Tanya Harford replied in an e-mail that the on-air announcements by 94.7’s djs are only one avenue of promotional messaging and that the other means of advertising employed, such as posters, pamphlets and online media, are quite emphatic about the fact that Joburg Pride is an event primarily for the LGBT community.

They also noted that 94.7 is directing its listeners to the Joburg Pride page on their website which clearly describes the event as an LGBT one.

“Your concerns about homophobic attacks are also duly noted however we believe that the security arrangements that have been made – in conjunction with the Johannesburg Metro Police Department – will suffice to mitigate and contain any risks to the safety of participants,” they further said.

Mbhele and Harford also noted that the two present Joburg Pride Parade days that have been organised by the current board were both advertised with similar messaging through the then-media sponsor, 5FM.

“If we give up on and boycott our own community events and spaces and are a house divided, it makes it all the more easier for Jacob Zuma and Ray McCauley to shut down and close those events and spaces,” said Mbhele and Harford.

They called on de Witt to remain involved in Joburg Pride, “from attending the Parade Day, supporting the various fundraiser initiatives such as Friends of Pride and film premiers, attending the Joburg Pride AGMs and volunteering to sit on the board’s portfolio committees.”

Craig Stadler, a columnist for gay monthly newspaper, Exit joined the fray in an e-mail:

“Is there nothing else to have a tirade about? It seems that when John Qwelane is not saying something stupid in the press we have an overwhelming need to find a new villain and it saddens me.

“I’m thrilled that someone like 94.7 wants to be a part of an event of this magnitude. For years the moffies have bitched and moaned that mainstream organisations don’t include them in their day to day life…”

He adds: “Quite frankly if [94.7 dj] Jeremy Mansfield is prepared to come out with us on Pride day with his chemo therapy ridden body and celebrate when he’s not even a poof, then dammit I’m gonna be there too.”

Joburg Pride 2009, presented by 94.7 Highveld Stereo, takes place on Saturday, 3rd October. Be at Zoo Lake Sports Club by 11:00 for the parade through Rosebank and then join Pride for an entertainment line-up featuring 94.7 Highveld Stereo DJs and MCs – back at Zoo Lake Sports Club. Soft-drink and water points will be provided for marchers and pets. Besides the entertainment, there will also be the Community Village, Pride stalls with all sorts of goodies on display and on sale, bars, food and a kiddies’ play area. The post-parade celebrations continue until 5pm.

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