No one saw it coming. Everyone was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the soapie that had become one of the most beloved shows in South Africa – and naturally, the woman who has been around since the very first episode was there to address the crowd.
Looking gorgeous in a Nuratik cocktail dress, Sindi Dlathu spoke off the cuff about SABC2's flagship soap that meant so much to her and the milestone birthday it had reached.
Then she went back to the party to mingle, laughing and chatting with friends and colleagues.
A week later she dropped a bombshell: she was leaving Muvhango. Thandaza Buthelezi, the corporate hotshot who has become synonymous with the show, will be seen no more. Fans were in bits. How could she leave? What would Muvhango be without long-suffering, headstrong, beloved Thandaza?
Catching up with us now, SIndi admits it was a tough decision. Her role is as old as the show and the actress has gone from a young woman barely into her 20s to a mature, experienced 43-year-old with an enormous fan base.
She admits leaving is no easy decision and she deliberated for months on end, often reaching out to others for advice and guidance.
"I prayed about it and had sleepless nights. Muvhango has been my home for 20 years. But it wasn't solely my choice to leave – I felt it was God's timing. It's time for me to grow outside the show, to explore Sindi as a human being and as an artist," she said.
Her family has been very supportive, she adds, as has her on-screen mother, Cynthia Shange.
"She's like my biological mother – Mam'Cynthia and my mother (Notizi Dlathu) call each others sisters.
"When I spoke to the people to matter to me, they supported my decision. We discussed it, we all prayed and fasted about it. It wasn't easy because they all know how much I loved and still love Muvhango. They know Muvhango came first for me for 20 years – it was my main focus. I gave my life to this show," she said.