Coenie Kukkuk at the recent Mr Gay South
Africa grande finale

Coenie Kukkuk, the driving force behind Mr. Gay South Africa, has announced that he is stepping down as a director from the competition.

Kukkuk, an attorney, started the event in 2008. It went on to produce four Mr. Gay South Africas, two of whom won Mr. Gay World and one of whom came in second place.

The competition crowned its most recent winner, twenty-two-year old Jason Lee Rogers, last Saturday.

Rogers will represent South Africa at the next Mr. Gay World in Antwerp, Belgium next year.

Kukkuk told Mambaonline that he needs to move on to concentrate on his business, revealing that he wanted to leave earlier but had agreed to stay on until this year.

With fellow board member John-Louis O’Neil also resigning, Kukkuk said that news on who will be running the event in the future will be revealed soon.

“We are in negotiations at the moment – but we can guarantee that we would not hand over the reins unless we are absolutely sure that the new directors are capable and have the best interest of the community and the competition at heart,” he said.

In a letter, published in full below, Kukkuk says goodbye to Mr. Gay South Africa and reminisces about his years at the helm. It was written last month, but only released this week.


In 2008, after yet another competition was held which was not worthy of our community, three “concerned gay men” – me, Juan Lerm and Cor Jansen van Rensburg – got together in Pretoria to do something about it. And not long thereafter Mr. Gay South Africa Mnr. Gay Suid-Afrika (Pty) Ltd was registered.

A private company yes – in 2008, under the Companies Act, seven directors for a non-profit were needed and we could not find seven who were willing and able to commit a large part of their lives to this ideal.

Our very first press release stated that one day we wanted to host Mr. Gay World in South Africa – a dream I, for one, thought was quite near impossible.

With Juan and Cor, and the directors who served after them, namely Barry Vorster and Hennie Crafford and the current board of me, John-Louis O’Neil, Karin Sephton and Frank Malaba, many accomplishments were achieved.

Please forgive me for naming a few – I am proud of them and you should be as well – because without YOUR support – the person reading this, none of this would have been possible:

• Mr. Gay World 2010 winner Charl van den Berg in Oslo;
• Mr. Gay World 2011 winner Francois Nel in Manila;
• First runner-up in 2012 at Mr. Gay World in Joburg, Lance Weyer – who I still think should have won! 😉 ;
• Winning the hosting bid of Mr. Gay World 2012 for Johannesburg, ahead of the USA, in Manila;
• Being named the best national competition for three years in a row by Directors of Mr. Gay World;
• Receiving the Eric Butter Philanthropy Award in 2012, of which I am very proud, and judging the Mr. Gay Europe competition in Rome.

But there are other deeds which are not awarded with accolades or are not in the public eye. The more than R36 000 the Mr. Gay World Auction collected for Nkosi’s Haven, the employment Mr. GSA got through a sponsor for Mr. Gay Ethiopia when he was disinherited by his family and had to seek asylum in South Africa, the temporary shelter this year’s finalist Hendrik Kruger arranged for a homeless gay couple, the many hundreds of requests for support on coming out and how to deal with parents and peers by young LGBTIs who sought our help through the years – and got it. The suicidal young Kevin who was adopted as an official “friend of the finalists” in 2010 and his eventual turn-around to self-acceptance come to mind. The more than 30 different charities supported by the finalists through the years. 

There are too many to list.

Most rewarding for me was to follow finalists of the past and to see, during and after the competition, how they grew into confident, young, out and proud men. The difference this competition made in their lives was obvious to see. To this year’s and all the previous finalists – it was a privilege to know you.

The support of the LGBTI community was excellent over the years – as well as from our straight allies. Yes, there were many – and sometimes very – vocal critics. But even they were sometimes (not always lol!) needed to draw attention to what the goals are.

To our sponsors in the business and media world and especially the LGBTI media who were so supportive: thank you very much. Without you, none of this would have been possible.

On a very personal level, thank you to Juan Lerm for setting up the framework with me in the beginning and planting the seed of Mr. Gay World. To John-Louis O’Neil without whom I would not have been able to achieve anything we did in the past three years you were on board. To my family and especially my mother, who filed all those contracts over the years and was a soundboard for all our problems – thank you very much.

I have given nearly five years of my life to this competition, mostly day and night. It was tough – but it was wonderful. It will be a part of me forever – memories cannot be taken away.

I have all the faith that there will be capable people in the community who will come forward and take the competition to new levels. I will be following with interest and you shall always have my support.

So long – and thank you.

Coenie Kukkuk
November 2012

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