Pretoria - Happy Sindane, the young man who 10 years ago claimed he had been kidnapped from a white family when he was a little boy, was on Monday found murdered in Tweefontein near KwaMhlanga.
Mpumalanga police spokesman Captain Leonard Hlathi said his body was spotted by a passer-by who alerted police.
“It seems he had been stoned to death, but post-mortem results have yet to confirm that.”
Hlathi said Sindane’s family had identified his body at the Kwa-Mhlanga morgue. No motive for the attack had yet been established and no arrests made.
Sindane became a household name in 2003 when he claimed he was a white boy who had been kidnapped by black people.
At the time it was thought that Sindane was 16 years old but a four-month investigation, including DNA tests, indicated that he was to turn 21 the following year.
He was identified as Abbey Mzayiya, and it was established that his real mother, a domestic worker, was probably dead.
He decided to continue using the name Happy Sindane.
Sindane’s cousin, Thomas Kabini, who lived with him in Tweefontein, said the last time he spoke to Sindane was on Thursday.
“He was in good spirits and happy,” Kabini said.
Kabini said he was one of very few family members left and was shocked when he heard the news on Monday. “I went to identify his body. His head was badly hurt. The rest of his body seemed unharmed.”
He said no funeral arrangements have been made.
ANC MPL Jacqui Mofokeng, one of the trustees of the Happy Sindane Trust – set up with money from Dulux after Sindane’s picture was used by the company without his permission – said she last spoke to Sindane about two years ago.
“At the time he was working at a car dealership in Benoni. I asked him to give me the details of the dealership and the owner assured me he would look after Happy.
“The last I heard he was still working at the dealership. I have no idea how he got back to Tweefontein,” she said.
Sindane was a “troubled boy”, she said. He was very emotional and had to fend for himself.
“I’ve been in contact with his cousin (Kabini) and we will meet tomorrow (on Tuesday) to make arrangements for the funeral,” she said.
Mofokeng said she had been in contact with an undertaker who offered to take care of Sindane’s funeral free of charge. “It is important to give him a proper burial.”
Mofokeng said most of Sindane’s family members had died. He was living with his cousin and relatives of his former foster mother Betty Sindane.
Sindane faced so many challenges in his short life, she said, and “not knowing who you are and where you fit into society is not an easy task for anyone”.
Mofokeng, who is also the spokeswoman for the ANC Women’s League, extended her condolences to the family and friends of Sindane on behalf of the league.
Sindane’s death had Twitter abuzz with messages of shock, disbelief and pity. Khaya Dlanga tweeted: “It’s almost as if Happy was cursed. One tragic event after another. Then this.”
Ntombikayise Phiri posted: “It wasn’t an easy life… What a tragic life Happy Sindane has had. RIP”
Buhlebethu D tweeted: Happy didn’t have a happy life at all
Hlathi said anyone with information on Sindane’s death can call Vusi Mahlangu on 082 318 9894.