Happy Sindane

Happy Sindane was born around 1984 on the northern edge of Johannesburg. When he was more or less six years old, Happy and his mother met a woman called Betty Sindane. Happy’s mother asked Betty to look after her child while she quickly disappeared into a liquor store and was never seen again. Betty Sindane reported what had happened to the police and was asked to look after Happy until things were sorted out. ‘Things’ were never sorted out.

Betty looked after Happy until her death 10 years later, which Happy didn’t take well. He lost his mother – again – and became the responsibility of the man who he referred to as his grandfather – Koos Sindane – with whom he did not get along. Happy was often lonely, an outsider teased by his peers in the township he called home. In his late teens he’s planned an escape to his circumstances.

When Happy was about 16 he walked into a police station close-by and claimed that he was a white boy stolen and enslaved by a black family. He implored the police officers to help him find his real parents so that he can go home. This story immediately gained media attention and soon everyone was concerned with this boy getting to his rightful home. DNA tests showed that Happy was allegedly the son of a German immigrant named Henry Nick and his black housekeeper, Rina Mzayiya, and that his “real” name was Abbey Mzayiya. The media attention died away and Happy was no longer a national concern. Around the age of 18 he was drinking a lot and his reputation was diluted to just that – the community drunkard.

In April 2013, Happy’s corpse was found in a ditch close to the tavern where he liked to drink. He had been allegedly beaten to death – or stoned to death – and a fellow drinker from the tavern was charged with his murder. He made headlines once again and his burial was sponsored by a local funeral company. Many came to mourn and remember the life of this mysterious child who became a household name in South African news: Happy Sindane.