Thousands march defiantly at Johannesburg Pride despite credible bomb threat

People walk in the streets during the Johannesburg Pride Parade on October 29, 2022 in Johannesburg.

Thousands of Pride goers have defiantly celebrated in the streets of Johannesburg despite warnings of a terrorist attack at this year’s march.

The event on Saturday (29 October) event saw pro-LGBTQ+ activists march in solidarity for the first time in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

South African marchers celebrated being out and proud against a backdrop of a heavy police presence after reports emerged a terror attack could take place

The US government told authorities on Wednesday (26 October) it had received information suggesting terrorists were planning an attack in Sandton, where Pride took place.

While the Pride march was not explicitly mentioned, government officials advised against large gatherings and events over the weekend.

South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa said the US had not discussed the matter with South African authorities prior to issuing the alert, insisting it was safe to proceed with the march.

He added that should any explicit evidence of danger come to light, security services would provide warnings beforehand.

Pride activists dance during a march in Johannesburg Pride.

Pride activists dance during a march at Johannesburg Pride. (Getty)

But LGBTQ+ activists proved no threat could stop the spirit of Pride, with joyous festivities resuming with little-to-no tension.

“Someone threatening to kill us is very, very scary, but it’s not the first time and sadly will not be to last,” 24-year-old Lethuxolo Shange, who attended the event, told Reuters.

“We’re not going to let people terrorise us.”

LGBTQ+ hate crimes are still an issue in South Africa

Johannesburg Pride is an ever-increasingly important event as South Africa legalised same-sex marriage in 2006, becoming the first African country to do so.

Despite this, the region still has a long way to go in curbing the number of malicious hate crimes made against the LGBTQ+ public.

At least 20 LGBTQ+ people were killed in South Africa in 2021 according to the Human Rights Watch, most of which were reportedly Black lesbians or trans people.

The organisation addressed these concerns to the deputy minister for justice John Jeffery MP in an open letter in January urging the MP to address the number of LGBTQ+ individuals killed or assaulted over the course of 2021.

“We respectfully request information regarding the steps that have been taken to investigate and prosecute the killings of LGBTI individuals in 2021,” it said.

And Dr Nolwazi Mkhwanazi of Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research noted that hate crimes against queer South Africans are particularly throttled by an already “overburdened court system”.

“It needs to be looked at because as people we should all be treated the same,” Mkhwanazi added.