9th Durban Pride a political & social expression of LGBTQ identity

Durban Pride 2019 (Pic: Joy Khumalo)

KZN’s queer community came out in their hundreds for the 9th annual Durban Pride on Saturday, despite the city council once again failing to publicly support the event.

The Pride was held under the theme of “Keep The Promise,” a call for service providers to meet their constitutional obligations to treat the community with “respect, dignity and equality.”

Around 800 people took part in the march which kicked off at 1 pm from the Gugu Dlamini Park and spilled out into the city’s streets. The participants were both festive and defiant, waving rainbow flags and holding up placards demanding their rights.

Metro Police assisted the organisers in helping to marshall and secure the crowds along the route. Staff from companies such as Unilever took part in the parade, as did a group representing Pretoria Pride.

Durban Pride Director Nonhlanhla Mkhize told MambaOnline that considerably more people marched in this year’s event than in 2018. She noted that despite working with a skeleton staff and limited funds, “It was very well attended. The spirit of what the march is supposed to be was really alive this year.”

Mkhize said that placards that were held up in memory of those lost through LGBTQ hate crimes were particularly moving. “I was deeply touched by the Pride this year. It was quite an emotional expression,” she said.

Around 4,500 people attended the post-march celebrations at the park, which included speeches, singing the national anthem, prayers and messages of support. Revellers were also treated to games, drag performances, DJs and the crowning of Mr and Miss Pride.

Around 20 stalls were dotted around the park, providing opportunities for NGOs and small businesses to offer their services to the community, including HIV testing. A number of government entities, such as the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and the Department of Justice, had presences at the Pride.

But where is the city?

Despite this welcome visibility by national departments, the eThekwini Municipality once again failed to make a public statement in support of Pride and the LGBTQ community during Pride Month.

On Friday, DA Councillor Caelee Laing revealed that the party had put forward a notice of motion to the ANC-led council “to express support for the annual Pride March taking place on Saturday,” especially in light of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots last week. It also requested that the council commit to promoting the rights of the LGBTQ community.

Laing said that it was “saddening” that, as in previous years, the speaker did not include the motion on the council agenda for the month of June. This has been an ongoing dispute, with DA councillors submitting motions for the city to support Durban Pride in 2011, 2014 and in 2018, without success (usually due to claims that the motions were unprocedural).

In October last year, EThekwini Municipality Council Speaker William Mapena finally allowed a motion, which was passed, for the city to investigate holding “a formal engagement… focusing on challenges and needs of the LGBTI+ community.” The city leadership, however, seems to still be unwilling to publicly back Durban Pride.

Pic: Joy Khumalo

Mkhize said the snub is “frustrating and unbecoming of the city and council.” She added: “A part of me believes that it could just be a political thing in that an ANC council will not bow down to an opposition party.”

She hopes to initiate a campaign to pressure the city to be more vocal in its support for Pride which, she has long argued, would only boost tourism to the area. “This was our ninth instalment, but where is the city? We are rates and tax-payers in the city. We are only asking for what we contribute towards. It is what is rightly due to us as citizens of the city.”

After months of planning and working under difficult conditions, the exhausted Mkhize is generally satisfied with the outcome of Durban Pride 2019. “It was political, it was about social justice, but also about expressing ourselves, having a good time and being safe in each other’s company and that of our allies,” she said.

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