Chris Pappas (centre) made history when he became South Africa’s first openly gay mayor in 2021 (Photo: Mayor Chris Pappas / Facebook)
The KwaZulu-Natal municipality headed by Chris Pappas, South Africa’s first openly gay mayor, is celebrating Pride Month. However, not everyone approves.
On June 8th, Pappas, who is the mayor of the uMngeni Municipality under the DA, took to Facebook to announce an initiative to paint various steps across the municipality in rainbow colours.
“These colourful steps symbolise our commitment to inclusivity, acceptance, and love for all,” wrote Pappas.
“Join us in celebrating diversity, spreading kindness, and fostering unity throughout Pride Month. Let these vibrant steps serve as a reminder that our differences are what make us beautiful,” he continued.
Pappas also urged the municipality to reflect on the progress made in creating a safe and welcoming community for everyone, as well as the strides taken in protecting human rights as enshrined by the constitution.
Pappas made history when he became mayor in 2021 following the local government elections. When asked about his sexuality by MambaOnline at the time, he confidently stated, “It is who I am. I can’t change that and would not want to.”
While Pappas’ Pride Month post received hundreds of likes and many favourable comments, some individuals expressed their disapproval, aligning themselves with the growing conservative backlash against Pride commemorations worldwide.
There was a recurring and unsettling refrain suggesting that celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride was a divisive act of “wokeness” and an attempt to “influence” children.
One commenter, Alastair, questioned whether “woke” had a place in South African politics, stating, “Kindness and diversity are undoubtedly what SA needs; however, ‘woke’ is a bipartisan issue that will never be settled.”
Another commenter, Themba, shared their concern: “I don’t mind what you do in your bedroom, but this showmanship and manipulation of children is what I don’t like. Such things should not be pushed onto young people who are still unable to vote or buy alcohol.”
Thabani also expressed their disagreement with Pappas’ Pride commemorations, stating, “We need to respect our African values. Howick is a tourist destination, and we should not be sending such messages.”
These comments are part of a recent wave of social media attacks against the LGBTQ+ community, sparked by the increased visibility of International Pride Month in South Africa.
For instance, retailer Woolworths faced a right-wing backlash after launching a campaign to show its support for LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion. Last week, politician Mehmet Vefa Dag threatened to vandalise Cape Town’s rainbow crossing by painting it black.
Despite the criticism, Pappas remains committed to celebrating Pride and advocating for inclusivity and acceptance within his municipality.