SA man teaching in Vietnam missing

John Bothma (Supplied)
John Bothma (Supplied)

A South African man teaching in Vietnam has disappeared without a trace, leaving his loved ones desperately hoping nothing sinister has happened.

John Bothma, 22, from Gauteng, was last heard from on May 18. He had been visiting a friend in Ho Chi Minh City. 

His phone had been off since then and friends and family have been trying to piece together what could have happened.

Bothma had been doing short-team teaching stints since entering the south-east Asian country in November last year, but was hoping to secure a longer contract.

His aunt, Santjie Dixon, who raised him from the age of four, told News24 he decided to travel because he "needed a change".

"I have never seen him so happy," she said from her Roodepoort home where he lived.

The two were very close. She always looked forward to his daily video calls, a chance for her to share in his overseas experience.

"It is quite a shock for us. We are very worried because I last spoke to him around 12 in the afternoon in Vietnam on Saturday 18th May," she said.

No record of leaving borders

"He tried to call me, then there were three missed calls, and then we never heard from him again."

Bothma had apparently told her he wanted to visit Cambodia and scout out possible teaching jobs but did not have enough money, so she transferred some into his bank account.

Vietnamese authorities had no record of him leaving their borders, she said.

His work visa expired on Sunday.

US citizen Jody Kurash, who has been travelling the world for the past few years, told News24 she and Bothma fell in love while teaching together in north Vietnam.

"When the semester finished on May 11, John and I went for a short beach holiday in Da Nang," she said from Poland, where she is working at the moment.

She last heard from him on May 17.

"He stayed that one night at Saigon Hub Hostel, who gave us a lot of information and said he was in good health when he left Saturday morning," she said.

"They said he left the hostel the night before with a middle-aged Vietnamese woman and returned around midnight. Nobody has any idea who she might be."


John Bothma and Jody Kurash (Supplied)

They had reported his disappearance to all the relevant authorities and asked that they check with hospitals, prisons, borders and customs.

Hostels were also distributing his missing person's pamphlet.

Kurash said she was inundated with responses but none of them were real leads.

"We were making plans to live together in Vietnam," she said.

"John had a very complicated past but I love him and he was very happy. He was nervous [about the future] but also very excited."

Dirco monitoring, prioritising matter

Dixon said Bothma has a paid flight back to Johannesburg early next month, which was booked a while ago as he needed to "sort some things out at home".

With no other leads to follow, she hoped that he somehow still made it back home.

"We are going to go and wait for him at the airport."

The International Relations and Cooperation department (Dirco) confirmed that Bothma's family had reported his disappearance.

"The SA Embassy in Hanoi has been requested to report it to the Vietnamese authorities with a request for assistance in tracing him," said department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya.

"This can take some time but our diplomats are monitoring and prioritising the matter."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.