The start of a New Year is not complete without Cape Town Pride, which, along with the Joburg version, is one of the country’s only two significant Pride events.

What ensures that Cape Town Pride stands out from its Joburg cousin (or should that be “sistah”), is the city’s holiday setting: The beaches, the mountain, the views and, of course, hordes of often gorgeous foreign tourists all make Cape Town Pride an event worth travelling to.

This year’s outing, the eighth since 2001, takes place from February 22 until March 2, under the banner of ‘Pride Heroes – Everyone is a hero.’

According to the organisers, “it was decided it was time to celebrate the very real heroes in our community, the people who have stood out and who have made a difference in the lives of gay people. But it is also time to recognise the Hero within each and every one of us. For most of us, the act of coming out to friends, parents, families and communities is a heroic feat.”

Nevertheless, for some, Pride appears to not be of much value or relevance, something which remains a challenge admits Ian Mc Mahon, Chairperson of Cape Town Pride; the volunteer-run, not-for-profit Section 21 company that organises the event.

He believes, however, that the matter is actually quite clear cut: “We might think that we have all our rights and that ‘life is dandy’ but be a lesbian in Khayelitsha and see how difficult and unwelcome you feel,” he says. “There’s a lot of ground to cover still!”

There are over 20 events planned for this year’s festival including: a pageant in which Mr and Miss Pride will be crowned; cruises (the ship and sea kind); an art and photographic exhibition; a series of seminars on pertinent issues with speakers such as Zackie Achma; a book fair; a lesbian board games evening; and the popular Pride Red Party.

Events new to Pride this year include a full moon champagne hike up the Lion’s Head, a pink Pride Putt-Putt at Mouille Point and the ‘Hot S(t)uds Carwash’. It all culminates with the traditional street parade through the city on Saturday 1 March, and the official after-party that night at Bonzai in DeWaterkant.

Integration of the diverse elements of the city’s gay community remains a priority says Mc Mahon, noting that Cape Town Pride partners with a number of community organisations such as Triangle Project, City Men’s Health Project and Good Hope Metropolitan Church in order to ensure that the event impacts on people across culture and social status.

When asked about the recent alleged racial incident on the eve of Pride, in which a black tourist was apparently barred from entering the Bronx nightclub, Mc Mahon admits that he is concerned.

A club owner himself, he adds that while he cannot comment directly on this case as he doesn’t know the details, “A greater level of tolerance needs to be understood by the bar and club owners – and the bouncing staff. This issue cannot keep raising its head every year! I think bouncers need to make sure that patrons know why they are not being admitted.”

“I just wish the [current] Mayor would get on the side of minority groups that still face abuse such as what happened last year with the death of those two girls…”

So how much attention is being paid to attracting foreign and, local for that matter, LGBT tourists to what could be a must-visit event on the international calendar? According to Mc Mahon the organisation is in “year three of five” in its strategy to make Cape Town a really large event. He tempers this by saying that “it does depend on corporate and other sponsorship, which we thought we would be getting more of at this stage, so we might need to stretch that a couple of years.”

“We do feel that by 2011 or 2012 Cape Town could be up there with the likes of Rio and Sydney in terms of becoming an international gay destination event,” he says.

But for that to happen there must be more support from sponsors and perhaps most vitally, the city authorities. A recent interview with Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille in the Pink Tongue newspaper revealed she doesn’t seem to understand why something like Pride or a gay village is important.

“I feel inherently uncomfortable with designating certain areas for certain categories of people, only based on one aspect of their identity,” said the haughty Zille. Perhaps she should get out more and visit some of the world’s capitals to see how a gay village district can often work for a city.

On funding Pride, she simply says that the City gets “scores” of requests for funding for events… “so very few get positive answers”, explaining that she also declined to personally open the event because it was probably “one of scores of invitations that were declined because of a diary clash.” In essence, the Mayor of Cape Town does not see Pride as a priority.

Mc Mahon says that the City does help in terms of logistics when putting on the parade, but slams its “lack of vision, specifically as to what contribution the gay traveller makes to a city’s coffers, by it not helping to contribute to a festival that could be all accounts rival the Sydney Mardi Gras. It’s an investment!”

He adds that the previous administration supported Pride and Pride events more visibly; citing the fact that the former mayor, Clr. Mfeketo, previously attended a Pride cocktail party in Gugulethu and even cut the ribbon to open Pride.

“I just wish the [current] Mayor would get on the side of minority groups that still face abuse such as what happened last year with the death of those two girls – killed because they were lesbian. When one considers these actions, it is not surprising that many people do not wish to ‘be themselves’ amongst mainstream society – hence the establishment of a ‘village’, a worldwide trend that creates an a place of safety and comfort,” says Mc Mahon.

Perhaps one of Cape Town Pride’s most significant achievements is the Pride Shelter Trust – a fund-raising effort to build a shelter for homeless LGBT people who find themselves on the streets and facing discrimination. This worthy undertaking has now raised R1-million since its inception.

Mc Mahon admits that when it comes to the Pride Shelter Trust the City of Cape Town is supportive, noting the fact it may provide a property to house the initiative, meaning that the shelter is a significant step closer to reality. “The city is behind us on this project,” he says.

Hopefully, this year, Cape Town’s gay and lesbian community will overcome their oft-mentioned apathy and step up to the plate to show the City why Pride is a vibrant and vital part of any global city’s cultural landscape. To re-quote Mc Mahon, “It’s an investment!”

Cape Town Pride 2008 takes place from February 22 until March 02. For more information and a full schedule of events visit

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