The Joburg Pride Board has announced that it is closing the company that has run the event for the last seven years, leaving Africa’s biggest LGBT event without organisers and facing an uncertain future.
“There’s been a lot of soul searching to come to this decision,” Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company Chair Tanya Harford told Mambaonline.com.
She said that the move was a unanimous one by the volunteer board members and was taken primarily due to growing difficulty in securing the Zoo Lake and Rosebank areas to hold the event.
“The SAPS and the two local ward councillors won’t support it happening in those areas anymore,” said Harford.
This was in part, she said, due to security issues caused by the 1 in 9 Campaign’s controversial ambush protest during last year’s parade which led to scuffles breaking out between protesters and the some of the organisers and participants.
The incident was broadcast around the world and saw both Joburg Pride organisers and 1 in 9 accusing each other of initiating the violence.
“The 1 in 9 action has had an impact in terms of the security assessment of Pride, which increases the onus on Pride to add more security,” said Harford.
She also said that “we [the board members] all have business interests that are taking more of our time and we have to focus on that”.
The news comes just days after the announcement of an upcoming meeting by the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) and 1 in 9 calling for a boycott of this year’s Pride event due its “highly commercial and anti-poor agenda”.
The organisations said in a post on Facebook: “From being an event that celebrated political struggle and claimed space for all members of LGBT communities, Joburg Pride has become a capitalist and consumerist gay parade that takes place in a predominantly white and wealthy suburb, is sponsored by multinational corporations and businesses, and is an event that only the economically wealthy sections of LGBT and queer communities are able to fully participate in.”
Harford said that she was unaware of the planned meeting and that it had played no part in the board’s decision.
“If that’s what the community wants for Pride then we’re not going to stop it,” she said, adding “We hope that FEW and 1 in 9 will be able to take Joburg Pride forward. It’s a massive undertaking. Good luck to anybody who takes that on. We only wish everyone well.”
Mambaonline asked Harford what would happen to any profit made from last year’s event. “After paying creditors and fees and winding down the company there won’t be anything substantial left. If anything is left it will be paid to a charity,” she replied.
The 1 in 9 Campaign distrupts the 2012 Joburg Pride parade.
The closure of the Joburg Pride company once again throws the future of Africa’ largest LGBT event into uncertainly.
The most recent Joburg Pride organising company was formed in 2006 to rescue the festival after previous organiser Gary Bath left the event mired in debt and controversy.
The Joburg Pride Board was able to resuscitate the festival, grew the event to almost 20,000 participants and 38 floats, moved it to Rosebank and turned it into a financially sound undertaking.
The 1 in 9 Campaign, which has described itself as a “feminist collective of predominantly queer women”, however, slammed the event last year for being “elitist” and ignoring the hate crime onslaught against lesbian women.
Mambaonline has requested comment from FEW and 1 in 9 about the news of the closure of the Joburg Pride company and is awaiting a response.
Joburg Pride, first held in 1990, is the oldest LGBT festival on the continent.
Below is a full statement from the Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company on its closure.
Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company board votes to stop production of annual Joburg Pride event
Johannesburg, South Africa, 3 April 2013: The board of Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company (JGPFC) has voted to wind up the Section 21 (not-for-profit) company that has produced Joburg Pride over the past seven years.
JGPFC was voluntarily wound up by unanimous resolution at a board meeting held on Wednesday, 13 March 2013. As such, the Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company will cease operation from 26 April 2013.
“It was a very big decision, and one that didn’t come easily,” says board member Samantha Durkin. “We have been successfully running Joburg Pride for the past seven years, growing it from a one-day event that attracted a few thousand participants into a multifaceted event over three days, including an evening programme, which has been attracting crowds of more than 20,000. It became increasingly time-demanding and operationally complicated over the past few years, especially as it’s been run by a board of volunteers who’ve contributed their skills, time, networks and contacts, with virtually all of Joburg Pride’s planning taking place after hours.”
“Looking back, we have a lot to be proud of,” says Durkin, “as we’ve supported the work of a number of worthy causes and charities over the years and have enjoyed the support of the local and international LGBTI community, as well as the support of great local and international artists, and greatly-appreciated sponsorship from a number of blue chip companies.”
Board member Fulvio De Stefanis says a number of challenges influenced the board’s decision, including the loss of the Zoo Lake Sports Club as a venue to host the event due to security risks, the loss of support by the South African Police Services (SAPS), as well as the loss of support by the two local ward councillors for the event to happen in their precinct.
“Joburg Pride been a passion project for each of our volunteer board members,” says De Stefanis.
“It’s been our way to try to help unite a very diverse LGBTI community, while building an annual event designed to have far-reaching positive impact on Johannesburg’s tourism and entertainment industries and showcasing the ground-breaking work by South Africa’s burgeoning NGO, arts and culture sectors.”
“The interruption of last year’s Joburg Pride march by the activist group 1-in-9 was also a factor in our reasoning,” says De Stefanis. “1-in-9’s unfortunate interruption of Pride 2012 shifted the event from a lowrisk event into a high-risk category, which would negatively impact on our operational structures and budgets going forward.
“It provided great short-term publicity for 1-in-9, but created far-reaching negative publicity for Joburg Pride. It’s ironic, as we agreed with their message – but not their medium, as it obviously negated our work over the past seven years, while providing a hint of potential operational and security risks – something we’ve always been prepared for, but never had to previously deal with on such a scale. Ultimately, all of these factors combined would impact on the time and financial limitations of the board,” says De Stefanis.
“We assessed the financial and security risks against our collective personal obligation to produce a safe and inclusive event that’s also creatively rewarding and financially viable – something that Africa’s powerhouse, Johannesburg, certainly deserves. After careful consideration we are, unfortunately, unable to guarantee meeting those obligations in the future.”