Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy Sindane: the boy who 'tried for white'

The Guardian (UK)
Christopher Hope
July 22, 2013.

Happy Sindane became famous in South Africa when he claimed to be a kidnapped white boy. After a DNA test cast doubt on his story, he sank into alcoholic obscurity, until he hit the headlines once again – after his brutal murder

Happy Sindane pictured weeks before his murder
 Happy Sindane pictured at home in Tweefontein weeks before his murder. 
Photograph: Themba Maseko/Daily Sun/Camera Press
The short, unhappy life of Happy Sindane came to a sudden end in April, when he was stoned to death. The man charged with his killing is out on bail and the case continues. It has been 10 years since a teenager walked into a police station in a small town north of Johannesburg and told officers he had escaped from a black family who had kidnapped him as a baby, and put him to work as their slave.

Happy was the ultimate South African story in all its mad, sad, bitter comedy. My first novel, promptly banned by the old regime, was about a boy called Harry Moto who could not make up his mind what colour he was. But the real-life tragedy of Happy Sindane easily outdoes my imaginary tale. He was the embodiment of the question that haunts the country, but which was said to have gone away when freedom came: on which side of the racial divide do you stand – black or white? Happy had an answer. He was both, and it was a bad place to be. He lived on into the "new" South Africa where the obsessions with race and colour were more pronounced than ever. He responded by rewriting his life, trying to turn it into a fairytale that, but for one lucky moment, did not end as he'd hoped. The ugly duckling never made it to swan; Cinderella kept being hijacked on her way to the ball.

Happy was probably not his real name. But then nothing about Happy Sindane seems "real" – except his suffering, his humour and his hopes. He was born in 1984, so the best guess has it, in a suburb called Fourways, on the northern edge of Johannesburg. When he was about six, the small boy went for a walk with his mother and they met a woman called Betty Sindane. Happy's mother asked her to mind the child for a few minutes, then she disappeared into a liquor store and was never seen again.
Read the rest here.
Comment: A tragic story that tells a lot about the race obsessive society South Africa was and remains.

The government may make a lot about the notion of a non-racial society but in truth most South Africans have hardly come to grips with how destructive the concept of race is - in fact, I would wager that most think that race is a real (read biological) marker of identity.


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