Pic: Cape Town Pride
More than a thousand people took part in Saturday’s annual Cape Town Pride march, with thousands more celebrating at the mardi gras.
Participants walked through the city calling for LGBTI equality as others danced atop colourful floats to the sounds of upbeat music.
While well attended, Cape Town Pride faced protests from within the community, as the Alternative Inclusive Pride Network demonstrated against what it says is the event’s exclusion of black and poor LGBTI people.
The around 40 protesters held up large banners that read, “This is what inclusivity looks like,” and “Brave enough to exclude us,” referring to the event’s 2016 theme, “Brave Enough”.
The activists have for the past three years boycotted Pride and accused organisers of catering primarily to white, privileged gay men and not reflecting the reality of life of the majority of LGBTI South Africans.
They have also called for the event to be moved from the city centre to areas such as Khayelitsha and Gugulethu.
Zethu Matebeni from Alternative Inclusive Pride told the Sunday Times that, “Cape Town Pride is very much about being this version of gayness that aspires to being a white gay man. And that version is not available to everybody in South Africa.”
There were reports that frustration and anger boiled over during the parade. Cape Town Pride Director Matthew van As accused members of Alternative Inclusive Pride of assaulting him and pushing him and event marshals into oncoming traffic. “I got punched in the gut. I was verbally assaulted and was hit in the face with a placard,” he told Mambaonline.
Funeka Soldaat, speaking on behalf of the activists, denied van As’ claims: “That is not true. It was Matthew who tried to stop us several times by asking the traffic officers but they refused. He tried to punch people and we told people not to punch him back.” She insisted that no violence took place and argued that traffic officers would have arrested any offenders if it had.
Pic: Cheryl Roberts / Facebook
After the parade, activists cited the R40 entry fee to attend the celebrations at Green Point Urban Park as further proof of exclusion.
Despite the fracas, the event proceeded without further incident as a crowd of thousands enjoyed music and live entertainment.
There was also HIV testing, counselling and safer sex advice provided through the WeTheBrave and Health4Men campaigns.
“At the end of the day we have more than 5,000 people having a great time but the media and the news focuses on thirty people who are unhappy,” said van As.
He argued that the event and the participants speak for themselves. “The diversity was amazing. It was one of the most diverse and culturally inclusive events we’ve had,” van As said. “From the feedback that we are getting, people are saying that it was the biggest and best Pride that they’ve ever been to.”
Saturday’s parade and mardi gras was the conclusion of a 10-day series of events including parties, workshops, film screenings, a memorial service and the annual Mr & Miss Cape Town Pride pageant.