From a very young age Nicholas van der Swart realises he is different. Try as he may, he cannot live up to the macho image expected of him by his family, by his heritage.
At the age of 19 he is conscripted into the South African army and finds his every sensibility offended by a system close to its demise, and yet still in full force.
Author André Carl van der Merwe transports the reader into this young man’s world with evocative realism - sometimes heart-rending, sometimes with humour, always with brush strokes of hope.
This is a long overdue story about the emotional and physical suffering endured by countless young men.

André Carl van der Merwe was born in Harrismith in the Free State. When his family moved to the Cape, he started his schooling in Welgemoed and later attended high school in Stellenbosch. After two years of national service, he started studying fine art in Cape Town. During his third year he established a clothing company, which he owned for the next 15 years. Today he concentrates on architectural and interior design and writing.
Although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa had gone a long way to exposing and exorcising some of the atrocities committed in the name of Apartheid, very little has been revealed about the adversities faced by gay people under the old regime.
The book Moffie (a derogatory Afrikaans term for a gay man) is a result of my need to make sense of the madness around me while I was doing compulsory military service in South Africa during the 1980’s. I had nowhere to turn for help or understanding - not to my parents, my Church or my friends; the Government had even criminalized homosexuality – and so it was my diary that saved my sanity. I documented my suffering, which was also that of so many others; our anguish at having to hide behind a façade, our desperation of wanting to escape or sublimate an inescapable orientation.
I have often thought of the suffering of those who were the primary targets of Apartheid, but not even during the darkest days of our history was it illegal to be black. Never would a black parent throw a child out of his house because of his ethnicity. Yet this was what happened to gay people. I needed to document the turmoil of a child going through puberty, awakening spiritually, but being pressurised into believing that, because he is homosexual, he is doomed to eternal hell.
Set during the South African border war against communism (in itself is a part of this country’s history that could be all too easily forgotten) I have recorded the atrocities that took place in ‘Ward 22’, where gay people in the Defence Force of the time were abused and tortured.
This is my contribution towards a world where we are not treated as second-rate citizens, but where we are seen and see ourselves as equal to all other human beings, as we were created.
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© 2007 André Carl van der Merwe. All rights reserved. email the author