Numbers came out to celebrate their identities and raise awareness on issues affecting the LGBTIQ+ community. Photo: Rosetta Msimango/City Press
Some squeezed into shocking pink outfits, others dug their highest heels out of their closets. One man decided vellies would go best with his bright rainbow socks, while another gave traditional Zulu dress “the Pride treatment”.
But even though they marched yesterday in the part of Johannesburg that, according to American intelligence, had to be avoided at all costs this weekend, there was not a bulletproof jacket, a hard hat or even a pair of camo pants in sight. Not even in the rainbow colours that would make such accessories fashionable at South Africa’s first Gay Pride parade in three years.
South Africans of all colours, creeds, ages and genders congregated in Sandton’s Rivonia Road yesterday and, in the process, ignored warnings from the US that terrorists were planning an attack in Africa’s most expensive urban area.
Nothing came of these threats (which, according to the Americans, could still materialise today) and the possibility that anarchy would spoil the event was joked about by one and all.
“If something happens, I can at least provide first aid,” was the tongue-in-cheek response of Lutho Shange, a medical doctor from KwaZulu-Natal wearing traditional Zulu attire.
“Oh, well, if we have to go today, at least we’ll go while we’re enjoying ourselves,” grinned another man nonchalantly.
“We had a moment’s hesitation, but then told other: “Whatever has to happen will happen. We can’t miss the parade out of fear,’” was the view of a sombrero-wearing man named Denver, who was witnessing his first Pride parade with a companion.
Faith Mazibuko, Gauteng’s MEC for community safety, had even less patience with the predicted terrorism.
Mazibuko, dressed in yellow, started the parade at the very front, behind a colourful banner announcing the ANC’s commitment to inclusivity. Beside and behind her, everything from unicorn handbags to rainbow wigs were waved around to the rhythm of loud chants. In front of her were a host of police and security vehicles to try to keep the peace.
Mazibuko said 2 000 security officers were deployed for the Pride celebrations, following the Americans’ terror alert.
For the organisers of the day (during which, in addition to the parade, there were also hosts of stalls and a beer garden at the Pride Village behind Sandton City), abandoning their plans was never an option, said Kaye Ally.
“First of all, there was never a direct threat against us, so we didn’t need to consider it,” she said. “In any case, we aren’t people whose voices are easily silenced. We haven’t had the privilege of experiencing a Pride march for years, so as a community, we’d find it very difficult to give up this chance of reaffirming the essence of Gay Pride to the world.
“Gay Pride is, of course, also a defiance campaign, so this is our rebellion today: we’ll march, no matter who tries to stop us,” she said.