Last year’s Johannesburg Pride in Sandton
The organisers behind last year’s Johannesburg Pride continue to be embroiled in controversy, with the event’s finances and management now being questioned.
Mambaonline has learned that the venue at which the event was held, the Sandton Sports Club, is in debt to one of its suppliers, apparently because Joburg Pride has not paid its bills to the club.
According to the Club Manager Dewalt Viljoen, the venue is struggling to pay beverage supplier ABI, which has threatened to take legal action over an outstanding bill of R58,250.
Viljoen told Mambaonline that while the 26 October Pride event brought in around R181,000 it cost over R230,000 to put on, resulting in a loss of almost R50,000. He explained that in total the Pride organisers owe the club R67,022.
This amount consists of beverages and food costs on account (R3,522), loans from the club to Pride to pay artists and DJs that performed on the day (R13,500), and R50,000 for the venue rental.
Viljoen insisted that he wants to try to come to a resolution with the organisers to avoid things becoming more serious but claims that Johannesburg Pride Project Manager Kaye Ally has been extremely difficult to pin down and has not answered e-mails or phone calls.
“We’re happy to work on a plan with them. We want to work things out as we want to continue to do future events with the gay community,” said Viljoen. He added that the company managing the club, which is in lease negotiations, could lose the lease due to the outstanding amount owed by Pride.
He said that when he did get hold of Ally, she told him that she was currently in Thailand for six months. Although, when Mambaonline spoke to her telephonically a few days earlier she made no mention that she was overseas.
She said at the time that she was unsure of the details of the problem and that she was planning to meet with the Sports Club a few days later, suggesting that she was in fact in Johannesburg. Almost two weeks later the meeting has still not taken place. In fact, the club says it has not heard from Ally and is no closer to having a resolution to the problem
This week, while Ally failed to respond to phone voicemail messages and a number of questions sent to her, she did message Mambaonline on Facebook claiming that Pride committee members Brian Dickerson and Janis Niewdout, who are also partners, were to blame for the financial woes.
“We are in the process of legal action against Brian Dickerson and Janus Nieuwoudt as they signed the contract to manage the venue, and they have R80K of Pride funding,” she said.
Viljoen told Mambaonline that Ally had earlier also told him that “Brian stole the money.”
Dickerson and Nieuwoudt reacted with outrage at the accusation, insisting that Ally’s claim was an “absolute lie.” Both men said that they left the Pride committee in November after a falling out with Ally, claiming that they “don’t like the way she does business.” In fact, by the time Pride took place in October last year, almost none of the original committee – which saw a regular change of members – remained in place.
“What originally was a laughable matter has quickly become a very big thorn in my side,” said Dickerson, who insisted that neither he nor Nieuwoudt had any funds belonging to Pride. In fact, he claims that Pride still owes them R5,000 from a R20,000 personal payment they made towards supporting the event.
Dickerson said that he believes that Ally is looking for “a scapegoat” because she “over-extended and overestimated herself and her capabilities. Over promising and under delivering seemed to be the motto of the day.”
He said that he is planning to take legal action against Ally for making the claims against him. Dickerson added: “Pride has taken such a knock. It’s so wrong. This will ruin the chances of people wanting to invest in it.”
Ally has not responded to Mambaonline’s questions to explain or detail her allegations against Dickerson and Nieuwoudt or to defend herself against theirs. However, it’s undeniable that her leadership of Johannesburg Pride has been characterised by almost constant controversy since she announced that she would take on the annual event in April last year.
From the very start she was accused of being insensitive by scheduling the event on the same day as Soweto Pride and she regularly butted heads with the organisers of the inaugural People’s Pride and other LGBT activists in the city who called for a more democratic selection of a Pride committee.
In September, Ally shocked the community with claims that she had been repeatedly assaulted and threatened by thugs demanding that she cancel the event. The claims were met with a mixture of disbelief, outrage and sympathy and were even reported on by international gay media.
To-date there has been no clarification from Ally on who might have been behind the alleged attacks or what their motives might have been.
Then, in an unexpected move, just days before it was set to take place on 28 September, the event was postponed by a month and moved from the city centre to Sandton; a first for Johannesburg Pride.
Ally insisted that this was because she was concerned about the safety of the public at the inner-city venue, but the authorities, including the police, denied any security concerns, and instead suggested that organisers had not been sufficiently prepared to hold the event. It eventually did take place in Sandton but with a far lower turnout than in previous years.
The latest development once again puts Africa’s largest Pride event, now heading into its 25th year, in jeopardy. Joburg Pride appears to be in debt for the first time in seven years. According to Nieuwoudt, Pride’s bank account is R300 in the red.
“Ally needs to take responsibly as the de facto head of Pride – or questions will be asked,” commented Tanya Harford, the chair of the previous Pride organising board.
“We are now as bad off as we were seven years ago. It’s terribly sad. I hope someone else stands up and gets involved,” she added.
Ally’s courting of controversy has seen her butt heads with numerous people within the community over the last year and has left many with a sense of unease. The fact that the event now appears to be unable to pay its bills adds further weight to the belief that it may well be time for organisers with the ability to inspire rather than divide to take over the reins of Johannesburg Pride.