The organisers of Johannesburg Pride say they plan to go ahead with the event on Saturday, defying warnings of a terror attack in Sandton.
On Wednesday, South Africans were shocked to learn of a security alert issued by the US Embassy of a potential terrorist attack on large gatherings in the Sandton area.
While little else was revealed by the American government, many speculated that Johannesburg Pride could be a possible target. News24 also reported that Pride and a theatre show staged by Jewish comedian Nik Rabinowitz in Sandton were the likely targets.
A weak statement from the South African government acknowledged the terror alert but failed to corroborate or reject the warning, stating simply that “Law enforcement agencies continue to monitor for any threats to our citizens, our nation and our sovereignty.”
On Thursday afternoon, the Johannesburg Pride organisers broke their silence to confirm that they will not give in to threats and will proceed with Africa’s oldest Pride celebration.
In a rousing statement, they noted that Johannesburg Pride has not been directly threatened, “nor have we received any communication from outside parties other than what the media assumed via the US Embassy’s website.”
The organisers explained: “Remember, our pride began as a defiant campaign, and we will not be subjected to any threats based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This is precisely why we take to the streets and march. We must assert our right to exist once more. We must maintain our freedom of movement and freedom of expression.”
Johannesburg Pride expressed its confidence in “our team, private security, the private security of Sandton Precinct and the authorities,” and said that “the 33rd Johannesburg Pride March and Pride of Africa Celebrations can go ahead as planned.”
Many on social media rallied around the organisers’ plans to put on the event on Saturday.
“Why am I emotional from this? Regardless of what happens it took years for society to be where it is today. So Aluta Continua. Amandla!!!” wrote Songezo Mcapukisi. MO TheMajesty added: “This is proving that these events are of paramount importance. We will go to those streets with pride.”
Activist, actor and former Mr Gay World Louw Breytenbach praised the Johannesburg Pride organisers’ “courage and leadership” and said he will be marching on Saturday. “Well done and thank you for reminding us WHY we have pride in the first place…. Not (only) for floats and sashes – But for advocacy, creating safe spaces and occupying our space in the world and our right to equality for all. May it serve as a reminder in the history books that no threat or terror will take away our right to equality or drown out the voice of justice for the LGBTQIA+ Community.”
But not everyone was convinced and some expressed their reservations.
“I have experienced first hand how precarious queer lives are. We have buried so many people. Willingly putting oneself at risk should be carefully considered and not something I would recommend at all, especially when a threat has been made very tangible. I do not like fear mongering. For many queer people leaving the house in itself is an act of defiance. In this conversation safety trumps protest and visibility. Please, please, please choose safety,” wrote Roché Kester, who heads up the LGBTI desk at the Gauteng Premier’s Office, on Facebook.
Author, commentator and broadcaster Eusebius Mckaiser said he’d been looking forward to attending Pride but commented that “sadly, we cannot rely on the ANC-led government to keep us safe from terrorism,” adding that “I wouldn’t attend it. Please keep safe. And be vigilant.”
The 2022 edition of Johannesburg Pride will take place on Rivonia Road in central Sandton, outside of the Sandton City mall, starting at 10:00 and running till 22:00 on Saturday.
Below is the full statement by the organisers of Johannesburg Pride.
We have spent the last 24 hours assessing the situation, consulting with authorities, and managing the situation as a whole from a planning standpoint, and we have learned that there are a number of large public events taking place in the surrounding areas. From a South African perspective, we believe that all lives matter. Johannesburg Pride has not been directly threatened, nor have we received any communication from outside parties other than what the media assumed via the US Embassy’s website.
We have consulted with the various entities, and at this point: postponing pride is hard, proceeding with pride is hard, and deciding whether or not to attend is a hard decision.
We urge you to remember the essence of why pride began. It was, for all intents and purposes, a protest action; we as a continent have a very marginalized LGBTQ+ community, we live under constant attack, and there is constant fear of being arrested in 33 of 54 countries. Countries where LGBTQ+ people are criminalized. Despite our constitutional rights, we are marginalized in South Africa. The Threat has provided an opportunity for homophobes to emerge, inciting a series of homophobic comments directed at Pride and our LGBTQ+ community and the reason for our existence.
We must remember that it is critical for us to occupy the space we intend to occupy on October 29, 2022, that we take to the streets, and that we assert our visibility. We must establish our presence and demonstrate our strength as a united community. Coming together as an LGBTQ+ community in Africa, South Africa, and Johannesburg.
Remember, our pride began as a defiant campaign, and we will not be subjected to any threats based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This is precisely why we take to the streets and march.
We must assert our right to exist once more.
We must maintain our freedom of movement and freedom of expression.
We are confident that the 33rd Johannesburg Pride March and Pride of Africa Celebrations can go ahead as planned thanks to our team, private security, the private security of Sandton Precinct and the authorities.
We appreciate your patience during this difficult time. #WEWILLMARCH