SA man still missing in Vietnam despite 'fake' Facebook posts

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John Bothma and Jody Kurash (Supplied)
John Bothma and Jody Kurash (Supplied)

Hopes of finding a South African man have been dashed after he went missing in Vietnam, where he was teaching.

Pictures circulating on Facebook of a "South African" man who had been involved in an accident, speculated to be of John Bothma, 22, from Gauteng, are reportedly of someone else. 

The Facebook page Find John Bothma, which is administered by his girlfriend Judy Kurash, posted: "Everyone, I appreciate your concern, but the photo of the man on the motorcycle accident/landslide is not John. It was verified with the authorities before it went viral. Please do not argue with me about this point.

"It is very painful to see this photo over and over again. When I first saw it I thought it was John and broke down. Let's pray for this man and his loved ones and continue the search for John."

bothma

News24 reported that Bothma 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, May 18," 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 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.

READ: 'We were treated like prisoners' - Young SA teacher jailed in China tells of ordeal

She last heard from him on May 17.

"He stayed that one night at Saigon Hub Hostel, [which] 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."

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 Department of International Relations and Cooperation (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."

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