Happy Sindane claimed in 2003 that he was kidnapped from his white family 12 years prior and was living with a black family who made him live outside and abused him.
But when he put out an international appeal to find his real parents, it was discovered that he was born to a black domestic worker named Rina Mzayiya and his real name was Abbey Mzayiya.
Mzayiya was likely impregnated by a white man, Henry Nick, who employed her in 1983.
Sindane's black family said they had taken him in because he was left by his mother. They said they treated him as their own son.
He was apparently in good spirits before he died, as his cousin Thomas Kabini said when he spoke to him on Thursday he seemed happy.
"I went to identify his body. His head was badly hurt. The rest of his body seemed unharmed," he said.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made for the man.
Jacqui Mofokeng, a trustee for the Happy Sindane Trust which was set up after his picture was used by a company called Dulux after they used one of his photos without permission, said she last spoke to him 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," she said. "The last I heard he was still working at the dealership. I have no idea how he got back to Tweefontein."
She recalled that he was a "troubled boy" and was very emotional.
Mofokeng and his cousin are setting up his funeral, as most of Sindane's family members are dead.
She said he had faced many challenges in his life.
"Not knowing who you are and where you fit into society is not an easy task for anyone," she said.
Police are currently investigating his death and have not made any arrests.