Johannesburg Gay Pride Cancelled as Board Dissolves

By Melanie Nathan, April 04, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 6.45.44 AMThe board of Johannesburg Gay Pride Festival Company (JGPFC) has voted to wind up the Section 21 (not-for-profit­) company that has produced ‘Joburg Pride’ over the past seven years. The voluntary winding up of JGPFC  was decided by an unanimous resolution at a board meeting held on Wednesday, 13 March 2013, and so the Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company will cease operation from 26 April 2013.

“It was a very big decision, and one that didn’t come easily,” says board member Samantha Durkin. “We have been successfully running Joburg Pride for the past seven years, growing it from a one-day event that attracted a few thousand participants into a multifaceted event over three days, including an evening program, which has been attracting crowds of more than 20,000. It became increasingly time-demanding and operationally complicated over the past few years, especially as it’s been run by a board of volunteers who’ve contributed their skills, time, networks and contacts, with virtually all of Joburg Pride’s planning taking place after hours. Looking back, we have a lot to be proud of, as we’ve supported the work of a number of worthy causes and charities over the years and have enjoyed the support of the local and international LGBTI community, as well as the support of great local and international artists, and greatly-appreci­ated sponsorship from a number of blue chip companies.”

Board member Fulvio De Stefanis says a number of challenges influenced the board’s decision, including the loss of the Zoo Lake Sports Club as a venue to host the event due to security risks, the loss of support by the South African Police Services (SAPS), as well as the loss of support by the two local ward councilors for the event to happen in their precinct.

“Joburg Pride been a passion project for each of our volunteer board members,” says De Stefanis. “It’s been our way to try to help unite a very diverse LGBTI community, while building an annual event designed to have far-reaching positive impact on Johannesburg’s tourism and entertainment industries and showcasing the ground-breaking­ work by South Africa’s burgeoning NGO, arts and culture sectors. ”

“The interruption of last year’s Joburg Pride march by the activist group 1-in-9 was also a factor in our reasoning,” says De Stefanis.

He noted that the lesbian feminist group  “1-in-9″  interruption and protest of the Pride rally, which caused a huge local and international outcry in 2012,  shifted the event from a low-risk event into a high-risk category, which would negatively impact on our operational structures and budgets going forward.

“The  protest against pride provided great short-term publicity for 1-in-9, but created far-reaching negative publicity for Joburg Pride. It’s ironic, as we agreed with their message – but not their medium, as it obviously negated our work over the past seven years, while providing a hint of potential operational and security risks – something we’ve always been prepared for, but never had to previously deal with on such a scale. Ultimately, all of these factors combined would impact on the time and financial limitations of the board. We assessed the financial and security risks against our collective personal obligation to produce a safe and inclusive event that’s also creatively rewarding and financially viable – something that Africa’s powerhouse, Johannesburg, certainly deserves. After careful consideration we are, unfortunately, unable to guarantee meeting those obligations in the future.”  says De Stefanis.

Johannesburg Pride had been accused of failure to be fully inclusive and for those who now see this as the fall of the event because of such, should perhaps contemplate a resurgence of Pride or reformation in a political vein that makes sense.  It is a great shame on many levels that this event is not going to happen.  I would hope that some organizations find a way to create a rally in its place, at the very least to tackle the problems of increasing homophobia, violence against gays, lesbian and transgender people and backlashes against a supposedly all inclusive constitution.

READ More on the genesis of this decision -


The 2012  Controversy:

South African lesbian feminists called for a pause, a minute of silence at the Johannesburg  (Joburg) Gay Pride Parade, to remember lesbians and LGBTI victims of homophobic murders,  yet were denied their moment by Pride organizers. A group calling themselves One in Nine chanted “one minute of silence” and then lay down along the route, singing songs noting oppression and the fight for visibility to end homophobia.

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10 Comments on “Johannesburg Gay Pride Cancelled as Board Dissolves”

  1. Victor Thick Skin Mukasa April 3, 2013 at 6:56 AM #

    Thanks Mel for the piece.They shamelessly refer to the 1in9 protest last pride!!! It was because the first medium of communication did not work and the message had to be heard. Kudos still for the 1in9 guys. There is Pride in Soweto…let all dwellers at the Joburg Pride now head to Soweto every year for Soweto Pride. It is Pride!!!!

    • Melanie Nathan April 3, 2013 at 7:51 AM #

      I actually changed some of the Press release language when the referred to One in Nine because I found the Board judgment of it to be obviously unobjective – hence also my own comment at the end. I think to Blame One in Nine shows only the Board’s own weakness. Of course pride parades should be political and of course they should not only be beer fest parties.

  2. Ezra Steenkamp April 3, 2013 at 7:18 AM #

    Very sad and also very true. Pride is not what it use to be and become also a “money making machine” for business. Some is taken over by “straight” and “gay” business owners for their own purposes to make money or to boost their own political statements including promoting their business. Pride should be run by NGO’s, not business owners.

    For those who follow the pride comments on our local news blogs and facebook will know what I refer to. Sad to see that all board members who successfully run the prides over the past years is either voted out or simply resign for similar reasons.

    Guys, well done on the past 7 years. Really enjoyed it and I don’t even stay in JHB.

    May this be a lesson to our smaller upcoming prides like Soweto Pride, Ekurhuleni Pride, Bloemfontein Pride and the Limpopo Pride to learn from these big prides and not to fall into the same traps.

  3. gnosa April 5, 2013 at 7:36 AM #

    Pride actually ran for 20 years, not 7. Who do these people think they are to claim ownership of the Pride parade just because they ran it for 30% of its life? They are part of the problem – they saw it as a cash cow rather than activism.

    • Melanie Nathan April 5, 2013 at 7:55 AM #

      I remember being a WITS student back in early eighties and attending a Johannesburg pride parade – sometime between 1980-1985. So you are right about that.

  4. gnosa April 5, 2013 at 7:42 AM #

    I have been at every Joburg Pride the past 17 years, and will be very sad if it does not take place again. There are always issues around inclusivity and the challenges of dealing with commercialism, which must be debated. But I would like to see 1 in 9 Campaign putting on their ideal inclusive, non-elitist non-violent Gay Event, solving all the issues they have drawn attention to!

  5. Brett Talin Brower (@Da14uzn) May 5, 2013 at 11:52 AM #

    … so gay pride 2013 is not happening? please say that i am wrong …

    • Melanie Nathan May 5, 2013 at 1:18 PM #

      Soem organizations are trying to re-establish it – Try Soweto pride its awesome and a few miles away!


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