Burkina Faso kidnapping: SA man believed to be dead, but wife holds on to hope

2019-07-30 12:11
Christo Bothma.

Christo Bothma. (Supplied)

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A South African man who was kidnapped in Burkina Faso is believed to have died, but his wife refuses to accept this until she has proof. 

Christo Bothma, 54, who worked for a mine in that country, was taken hostage with the son of the owner of the mine in September last year. 

This weekend, his wife, Amanda, got the shocking message that sources had confirmed his death to Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, founder and director of humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers, which had been negotiating Bothma's release.  

In a message to Amanda on Saturday, Sooliman wrote: "Today both our intermediaries called, independently of each other, one from Niger and the other from Mali. Apologies for this but they both confirmed that Christo has passed on ... We still don't know how, when and under what circumstances Christo passed on but we have no reason to doubt the message as both our contacts are extremely reliable and trustworthy. My deepest condolences to the family."

No body

"I don't know if I believe it," Amanda told News24 on Tuesday. "We hope that Christo is still alive. Nobody has shown us his body." 

Sooliman told News24 that his sources are reliable. Sooliman first received news of Bothma's death on June 19, but this could not be confirmed.

"On June 19, we received a call, unsolicited, from our contact in Niger. It was one line: 'the South African in Burkina has passed on.' We received the same message on 1 July to say 'the news is true', 'the Indian is safe'."

READ: South African kidnapped in DR Congo - army

"The Indian" refers to the son of Bothma's employer. 

On July 3, the same contact confirmed to Sooliman that "the South African has passed on and the Indian is ill".

"Then on July 4, we finally made contact with our Mali intermediary. He was in direct contact with all the captors, but said he knows nothing of Christo's passing and the Indian's ill health. He said he would check," Sooliman said. 

The Mali contact, who was in contact with the captors, then sent people to the area where Bothma was being held to "research" the situation.

Meanwhile, on July 12, Sooliman's contact from Niger sent him a picture and asked if this was "the South African in Burkina". It was a picture of Bothma. 

On July 27, following his "research", the Mali contact called to say "it is true", meaning Bothma was dead.

The Niger contact who sent the picture  also called on July 27 to confirm that it was Bothma, Sooliman said.

He had been held by an Islamic splinter group and not Al-Qaeda, Sooliman said. 

'We don't want it to be true'

But Amanda won't accept this as proof that her husband is dead. 

"We don't want it to be true. We pray that it is not so. Until I see proof, I won't believe it."

Amanda told News24 that she and her family were taking things one day at a time. 

Between her and Christo, they have six children - three of their own and three from previous relationships. 

Since January, she has taken a job as a receptionist in Potchefstroom, where she lives, to make ends meet. 

"His employers are no longer paying his salary. Being a receptionist in Potchefstroom doesn't pay that well. Christo's employer pays me some money each month from his own pocket and my sons also help financially, but it's not enough. I have bills to pay, I have kids living with me..."

Sooliman said Gift of the Givers would send someone to meet both of the contacts face to face in an attempt to get all the information surrounding Bothma's death and some kind of proof to verify this.

"I asked Dr Sooliman, if it's possible, bring him home," Amanda said. 

Sooliman said another South African, Gert van Deventer, taken hostage in Libya, is also in the hands of the same group who kidnapped Bothma.

"They had requested a $1.5m ransom for him. We are negotiating for him on behalf of his wife, with whom we are in regular contact," Sooliman said. 

Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, could not be reached for comment.

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Read more on:    gift of the givers  |  imtiaz sooliman  |  burkina faso  |  west africa
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