Soweto Pride 2011

The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) has been accused of discrimination for apparently refusing to assist the organisers of Soweto Pride.

The Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) has sent a letter to the department complaining about the fact that it has failed to support past Soweto Pride events, despite promises to do so.

FEW said that the lives of participants are in danger every time they march without the presence of JMPD officers.

“We have taxis forcing themselves into our march. We could have an accident – someone could get hurt. It’s just not safe,” said Dikeledi Sibanda the Project Officer at FEW.

She told Mambaonline that the JMPD had promised to help to ensure the safety of the march over the past three years but then had, on all occassions, simply failed to arrive.

On the day of the marches, concerned organisers called the contact numbers they were provided with and these were unanswered or went to voicemail.

“One year, after we phoned them to ask why they didn’t come they told us that they had forgotten about the march,” Sibanda said.

While larger events such as Joburg Pride pay the JMPD a fee to help manage and secure traffic along their route, Sibanda said that the JMPD had never requested a fee and had promised to assist Soweto Pride.

“We were granted permission and we followed all the procedures required by the Joint Organising Committee, yet the JMPD still failed us. Not even once did they take the initiative to contact us after our numerous attempts [to reach them].”

The organisation noted that despite laying a complaint in 2010 and the most recent letter of complaint, which was sent in March, as well as numerous oral requests, it has still not received a response from the department.

Sibanda claims that the failure of the JMPD to respond to their letter shows prejudice on the part of the department. “They don’t care about us, and this attitude must stop. We are part of South Africa’s citizens too”, she said.

Sibanda added that the organisation has contacted the South African Human Rights Commission about the issue.

Soweto Pride has taken place since 2009 and is particularly significant in that it is held in a township area where lesbian women are more likely to face violence.

Mambaonline contacted a JMPD spokesperson about FEW’s claims and complaints and left a message but did not receive a response at the time of publishing this story.

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