The Mr Gay World contestant from Zimbabwe has pulled out of the competition citing personal reasons but organisers praised the “brave stand” he had taken by coming so far.

The competition had been celebrating having more African contestants than even before with a total of four delegates, including black competitors for the first time.

Taurai Zhanje, however, announced he would not be competing at the weekend.

Mr Gay World’s Director for Africa, Coenie Kukkuk said: “We are sad to loose Taurai, but in Africa, the personal sacrifice for gay and human rights is sometimes too much to expect from people.

“Taurai already made a very brave stand against the oppression of the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and intersex persons and we have to respect his decision. We wish him and his family only the best for the future.”

Kukkuk added that while efforts would be made to replace Taurai, the political climate for gay men along with gay women, bisexuals and trans people made it unlikely another African contestant would step forward.

Of the competition’s aims, organisers add: “The delegate chosen to represent his peers on a global stage will not only have the inner beauty of confidence, self assurance, charisma and natural leadership abilities but he will also take care in his outward appearance. He will also have knowledge of LGBTI general history and recent news.”

Samuel Kneen, the current Mr Gay UK, will be representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the competition.

A South African had won Mr Gay World in 2010 and 2011 and South Africa will host the competition this year.

In December last year, shortly after he was crowned the first-ever Mr. Gay Namibia, Hamutenya was assaulted by men who demanded his winnings.

The 2012 Mr. Gay World competition will be held in Johannesburg from 4 to 8 April.