Despite unseasonably rainy weather, hundreds of LGBTI people and their friends and family took part in the Durban Pride Liberation March and Festival on Saturday.
A diverse and enthusiastic crowd gathered in the morning at the Amphitheatre on North Beach under the theme of “Humanity Beyond Identity”.
During the speeches and prayers ahead of the march, the cold and wet audience was repeatedly asked if they were prepared to walk in the rain and determinedly responded in the affirmative.
“We started asking people, ‘It’s raining, are you still wanting to march?'” Nonhlanhla MC Mkhize, from the Durban Pride 2016 Planning Committee, told Mambaonline. “And the response was ‘come rain, come hell, we are marching!’ The people had spoken.
“That moment for me was very important. It showed that [Pride] is not just about having a good time. It was beautiful,” she said.
Mkhize estimated that between four to six thousand people attended Durban Pride throughout the day and evening, around double the numbers of 2015, in spite of the rain.
This year’s turnout was bolstered by delegates from around the world who had taken part in the International Aids Conference during the week and extended their stay for Pride.
According to Mkhize, the event saw participants from across Africa as well as those from as far afield as Canada, Lebanon, the UK and the US.
“There was that spirit of inter-continental unity, that, “You know what, we are together,” she said,
After the march, the crowd was treated to performances and other entertainment well into the night before moving on to a variety of after parties around the city.
When asked what challenges in particular are faced by LGBTI people in KwaZulu-Natal, Mkhize, who is also Director of the Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre, replied: “When you talk about hate crimes and homophobia and not being accepted… there is the issue of culture, especially for those who are Indian and Zulu.
“So culture and religion continue to be used in the black and Indian communities to cast us aside, which you don’t find as much in Gauteng or the Western Cape,” she explained.
KwaZulu-Natal is known as one of the country’s most culturally conservative regions. Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini was accused of making anti-gay statements in 2012, including proclaiming that homosexuality is “wrong”, “not acceptable” and “un-Zulu”.
In 2013, the Zulu Royal House reacted to a same-sex traditional-style wedding held in the town of Stanger, a historic location for the Zulu people, by stating that “homosexuality is not holy”.