The DA’s branded t-shirts and flags stood out at the march while the crowd was later addressed by DA leader John Steenhuisen who urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to champion LGBTIQ+ rights in the rest of Africa.
When Archbishop Desmond Tutu was honoured (in absentia) with the Lifetime Achievement Award for services to the LGBTIQ+ community, the award was handed over by a DA t-shirt-wearing individual and was accepted on Tutu’s behalf by the DA’s Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.
Writing on Facebook, Jacqui Benson said that “it appears CT Pride is not apolitical as an organisation, which is problematic for the community.” Others also suggested on Facebook that Cape Town Pride is more favourably inclined to allow the DA to participate in the event.
The Cape Argus further reported that some political parties expressed “concern” at the DA’ role in Cape Town Pride, and especially that Steenhuisen was given a platform to speak.
“John is not a known champion of LGBTIAQ+ rights so his attempt at turning the parade into a DA political rally is in bad taste and speaks of the party that is looking for any organised grouping to make itself relevant,” said ANC spokesperson Yonela Diko
Good Party general secretary Brett Herron added: “The DA leadership should also know better than to hijack an event as if they are the sole defenders of our constitutional rights. We are entitled to expect they would exercise appropriate discretion. Instead, they were just opportunistic.”
Cape Town Pride Director Matthew Van As told MambaOnline that the DA’s visibility at Pride was nothing new as “the DA has always had a presence at Pride to show their support of the LGBTIQ+ community.”
He explained that the person who handed over Tutu’s award was the previous recipient of the award, well-known member of the LGBTIQ+ community Ian McMahon, who is, he insisted, “not a member of Pride” and was thus entitled to wear a DA t-shirt.
Van As further said that no one from The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation was available to accept the award and the foundation had not objected to it being received on Tutu’s behalf by Winde.
He justified Steenhuizen’s speech as appropriate because he represents the governing party in Cape Town. “All political parties were given the option to participate in the parade. The ANC and The Good Party were both present on the parade,” added Van As.
He further explained that all the major parties were offered “a political party package that gives different options of involvement”. The DA took a package and paid “a participation fee” while “the other parties did not take up the offer,” he said.
When asked if it is appropriate to have any political party be a paid “sponsor” of a party-apolitical Pride event, Van As replied: “Pride does not support any one political party. What our members and organisers’ affiliations are to political parties within their private lives is just that, private. We believe that every organisation has the right to participate as long as it is on a fair and equal footing.”
Should political parties be allowed to pay to have a more visible presence at Pride events? What limitations, if any, should Pride organisers have on party political participation? At the same time, should political parties who make the effort and and spend their money to reach out to the LGBTIQ+ community be penalised or lambasted for doing so?
These are questions that Pride organisers should carefully consider in their planning, after all, the importance of perception and symbolism at events like Pride are not insignificant.
Update: Johannesburg Pride / Pride of Africa sent MambaOnline a comment on the issue. Chairperson Kaye Ally said: “We cater for space allocation to NGOs and political parties at no charge. For the exact reason as to ensure we as Johannesburg Pride remain a-political. In addition, we have found that certain political parties refrain from participating in an all-inclusive event. In spite of that, we refuse exclusivity.”