Thursday 14 November 2019
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iol - 5 days ago

Agonising search continues for mothers whose sons vanished in Vietnam

Johannesburg - Every morning, the first thing that Coleen Bothma does is send a WhatsApp message. The message is received half a world away, by a woman who understands Bothma’s pain. In the message she asks Faheema Adams if there is any news of her son. For the past four months, Botha has received a negative answer from Adams. What the mothers have in common is that their sons went missing under mysterious circumstances in Vietnam. Mushfiq Daniels and John Bothma were teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City when they disappeared. The two men don’t appear to have known each other. Bothma was last seen on May 18, and the last confirmed time Daniels was seen was on July 5, when a friend took a photograph of him. “I worry every night that he has food, that he has a place to sleep, that he is suffering somewhere. That he is in jail,” Bothma said. So far no one has come forward with information on her son’s whereabouts. Bothma believes her son’s South Africa bank account might provide a clue as to where he is, but she hasn’t been able to receive permission to view it. John Bothma arrived in Vietnam in November 2018, to teach part-time with a view to obtaining a permanent position. From his phone calls home, Bothma said he appeared to be in a good frame of mind. He had planned to return to South Africa on June 2. In early October, Bothma went to Vietnam to find her son, the first time the Kempton Park nursing sister had left South Africa. Ahead of her was a nine-day emotional roller-coaster ride as she traced her son’s last known movements. She collected his passport from the South African embassy, and was given his belongings at a backpackers’ lodge where he had stayed. “The day they gave me all of John’s stuff, it was 100 times worse than the day when my husband passed away,” said Bothma. When she asked staff at the lodge about her son they refused to talk about him. She also met her son’s ex-girlfriend. “I don’t trust her,” she said. “When I received all of John’s clothes there were letters from her about his work in Cambodia. But I have friends in Cambodia, and there is nothing of John there.” Bothma said of her son: “It was the most wonderful experience to stand in the class where John was teaching and to go where John went.” It was in Vietnam that Bothma met Adams, from Cape Town. Mushfiq Daniels’s mother has been in the south-east Asian country for the past four months. In that time she has followed up every single possible sighting of her son. Recently, there was promising news of Daniels being seen in a shop. “We followed up on that for many nights, but nothing. “The last positive identification of him was on July 5, when a picture was taken of him,” she said. Adams believes her son might have suffered some sort of mental breakdown. The friend who took a photograph of Daniels on July 5 said he had appeared to be distressed at the time. Daniels had been wearing red shorts and a backpack was slung over his shoulder. Adams said his family had sent him money so that he could travel back to South Africa, but he had never withdrawn the money. During her time in Ho Chi Minh City, Adams has visited countless police stations, hospitals and shelters for the homeless. The problem, she says, is Ho Chi Minh City is a huge, sprawling city. “Missing people are big problem here. So you go into a police station, they take the photograph, add it to a file, and put it on a stack.” She intends hiring a private investigator but those she has approached so far have appeared to be scam artists. All of this has taken a toll on Adams. She recently spent five days in a hospital’s intensive care unit after suffering a minor heart attack. This, she believes, was brought on by media reports that her son might have become a victim of an organ trafficking ring. There was no evidence that was true, she said. She said she was not receiving much support from the South African authorities, or the police. All she could do was to continue the search. Meanwhile, half-way across the world, Bothma is working seven days a week, and squeezing in as much overtime as she can get to make sure she has enough money to go back to Vietnam. “I am telling you, if there are any answers, I promise you I will go back. And if I find my son, that will be the best day of my life,” she said. Saturday Star


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