Cape Town Pride in 1993. Picture: Benny Gool/Independent Media Archives
Cape Town Pride in 1993. Picture: Benny Gool/Independent Media Archives

History of Pride in South Africa

By Liam Karabo Joyce Time of article published Oct 31, 2020

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This year marks 30 years since the first-ever pride march in Mzansi.

While the event has grown over the years, let's take a look back at its history.

On October 13,1990, South Africa's first Lesbian and Gay Pride march was held in Joburg.

It was the first Pride March on the continent and acted as both a gay pride event and an anti-apartheid march.

To be clear, the march was both a political statement and a celebration.

The march was organised by the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (Glow) and attracted a crowd of about 800 people.

At least 200 local gays, lesbians and non-homophobic supporters hit the streets of Cape Town on Saturday in the City's first-ever gay pride march Picture: Benny Gool/Independent Media Archives

Speakers at the event included Dr Beverly Palesa Ditsie, Simon Nkoli and Justice Edwin Cameron, who also organised the event with other queer activists.

The purpose of the event was not only to demonstrate pride in gay or lesbian identity but also to provide a wider platform for voicing political concerns.

The march was part of a broader struggle to decriminalise homosexuality in South African law and to end apartheid. Addressing the crowd, Nkoli said: "I am black and I am gay.

I cannot separate the two parts of me into primary or secondary struggles. They will be all one struggle."

Marchers feared for their safety, with many wearing masks during the event.

Cape Town Pride in 1994. Picture: Obed Zilwa/Independent Media Archives

There was a strong presence of religious groups with many onlookers describing the march as "disgusting". Despite this, there was a generally celebratory atmosphere to the parade signified by the chant "out of the closet and into the streets".

Since the event in 1990, Pride marches have continued to grow in South Africa. Under the democratic dispensation, some in the LGBTIAQ+ community felt that Pride should be more celebratory than political.

By the late 1990s, Pride March became the Pride Parade. This caused widespread divide within the community, with many saying that the Pride march should retain its political legacy and highlight some of the issues affecting LGBTQIA+ people in South Africa today.

Cape Town Pride in 1994. Picture: Obed Zilwa/Independent Media Archives

Today, the Pride takes place in every province, speaking to the existence of queer people in every corner of South Africa.

While Johannesburg Pride remains the largest Pride event in Africa, other parades held in the Johannesburg area include Soweto Pride, which has taken place annually since 2005 in Meadowlands, Soweto, and Ekurhuleni Pride, which has taken place annually since 2009 in the East Rand township of KwaThema.

On April 24, 2011, LGBTQIA+ rights activist and Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee member Noxolo Nogwaza was raped and murdered in KwaThema in what was described as a hate crime by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Three years earlier, lesbian Banyana Banyana footballer Eudy Simelane was raped and murdered in the same township. In 2016, Ekurhuleni Pride took place in the township of Vosloorus. Since then, the event has been held in Centurion and KwaThema.

Cape Town Pride in 1994. Picture: Obed Zilwa/Independent Media Archives

Pretoria Pride has been held annually since 2013 Annual pride parades have been held in Cape Town subject to interruptions since 1993, and as part of the Cape Town Pride event since 2001.

Nelson Mandela Bay Pride has taken place annually in Port Elizabeth since 2011 while the Free State Pride has been held in Bloemfontein since 2012. Durban Pride has been held every year since 2011, while The Pink Mynah Festival is held in Pietermaritzburg.

The event includes a beauty pageant, a fashion show, a pride parade and a picnic. Limpopo Pride has been held in Polokwane since 2012. In 2015, various government officials, including the mayors of Polokwane and the Capricorn District Municipality as well as councillors and members of the police service, marched in the parade.

On August 9, 2014, a pride parade took place in Nelspruit. This marked the first time a pride parade was held in the province of Mpumalanga.

One month later, the town of Ermelo organised its first pride parade. In the North West, the first pride parade in the province was held in November 2007 in Mahikeng.

Pride parades have taken place annually in Klerksdorp since 2010. On October 1, 2016, a pride parade was held in the township of Kanana.

Check out the latest issue of Queer+ Magazine here.

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