Charl Van Den Berg (Facebook)
Multiple sources have confirmed that Charl Van Den Berg, Mr Gay South Africa 2009 and Mr Gay World 2010, passed away on Thursday night.
Van Den Berg was in hospital at the time of his tragic death at the age of just 33. It’s understood that he had been battling lymphoma (cancer).
Coenie Kukkuk, Mr Gay World Director for Africa & Middle East, said that Van Den Berg’s death was a great loss to the LGBT community.
“Remember that after same-sex marriage was legalised in South Africa in 2006 there was a lot of bad press and resistance to the community,” commented an emotional Kukkuk.
“When Charl won Mr Gay World in February 2010, it was the first positive news about the LGBT community that was carried by the mainstream newspapers and it was on street poles throughout South Africa.”
He described Van Den Berg as “an all-around nice guy,” who was approachable, level headed and a good role model. “Any person could speak to him at any occasion and he was always friendly and never had any airs and graces.”
After Van Den Berg’s Mr Gay World win, South Africa went on to scoop the title again in 2011, with Francois Nel, and hosted the event in 2012 and 2015.
Kukkuk said that Mr Gay World President Eric Butter expressed his condolences to the local LGBT community from Australia.
Van den Berg was born in Bloemfontein and was a manager at Cafe Manhattan in Cape Town when he was crowned Mr Gay South Africa.
He handled a brief controversy about nude modelling pictures that surfaced after his win with aplomb, telling Mambaonline at the time: “[People] should try to get to know me better before they judge my character or ability to be a role model. I proved to them that just because I did a nude photo shoot, it didn’t make me less of a person.”
When asked about his coming out, Van Den Berg said: “It was pretty tough for me as it took me a while to come to accept myself for who I am. Coming from a religious Afrikaans background, it’s not the easiest thing. I just got tired of living a double life, straight to some people and gay to others.”
Van den Berg, who was living and working in Johannesburg at the time of his death, is survived by his mother, brother and partner, Armand Slabbert. Mambaonline offers its sincere condolences to his family and friends.