In a powerful retort to Robert Mugabe’s claim that homosexually is unAfrican, hundreds of proudly gay Africans demanded an end to LGBT hate crimes at Soweto Pride 2015 this past weekend.
Activists, members of the LGBT community and their friends and families took to the streets of Meadowlands on Saturday for the eleventh edition of the event. It was a return to an old home for the Pride which had moved from Meadowlands to Credo Mutwa Park in 2010.
The march, preceded by a drumming performance, was led by long-standing activist Virginia Magwaza who kept the crowd singing, dancing and cheering in the scorching heat in a display of defiance and celebration.
The event had a predominantly lesbian presence and focus; it is women who’ve traditionally borne the brunt of rape and murders in the township.
Placards and t-shirts proclaimed: “Resilient lesbian activist”; “As long as you are happy does it matter who you fall in love with?”; “Stop the war on women’s bodies” and; “End heterosexual privilege. Equal rights for all.”
At one point during the two hour march, Magwaza stopped the procession and called for a minute of silence. “We are asserting our existence,” she said.
“I want to remind you why we are marching in this township – why this Pride was created. Salome and Sizakele were murdered in this township because they were lesbians.”
Salome Masooa and Sizakele Sigasa’s bodies were discovered by a jogger in a field in Meadowlands in July 2007. The couple, who were romantically involved, had been tortured and raped before they were shot dead.
The march also stopped in front of the Meadowlands Police Station to highlight the fact that their killer has still not been identified nor brought to justice.
After the marchers returned to Meadowlands Park, organisers hosted speeches and entertainment for the growing crowds who celebrated and picnicked on the lawns into the late afternoon.
LGBTI NGOs, food vendors and health service providers also participated in the Pride, with a variety of stalls erected at the venue.
A petition was circulated calling on the authorities to restore a bench placed in the park in 2009 to mark Masooa and Sigasa’s murder. The bench was removed by the city when the park was renovated.
Phindi Malaza from FEW told Mambaonline that the event went smoothly and that the turnout was good. She expressed some disappointment, however, that many people who attended did not take part in the march, but rather in the festivities that followed.
“We still need more people in the march. It’s through the march that we create the change we want to see and make an impact on the community and the violence that happens,” she said.
On Monday, Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe told the UN General Assembly that Africans “are not gays”. Soweto Pride was yet another of many innumerable examples, both past and present, confirming that his statement was a lie.