Mom of missing SA man who’d been teaching English in Vietnam searches for him

John Bothma. (Photo: Facebook)
John Bothma. (Photo: Facebook)

She can’t stop looking for her son’s face in the crowds, says Coleen Bothma from Kempton Park, Johannesburg, who’s in Vietnam looking for her son, John Bothma, who’s been missing for months.

“When I see someone on a scooter or just people walking around, I wonder if it’s him. I’m not sleeping very much but I feel closer to him than ever. I really wish and pray that I’ll find Boetie.

“I’m virtually walking in his footsteps – it’s incredibly emotional.”

Coleen arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam on Friday and on Monday she went to the South African embassy, where she was given John’s passport. John was last seen on 18 May in Ho Chi Minh City. He’d been staying in a backpackers’ lodge called Nine.

“I wept bitterly when I took the passport,” Coleen says. “I asked them what’s being done [to find him]. There must be someone who knows something – people don’t just disappear. They told me police and the hospitals have no new information.”

His work visa had expired so he won’t be allowed to work in Vietnam. He couldn’t have left the country because he doesn’t have his passport with him. Police in Ho Chi Minh City, where John had been on holiday at the time he went missing, found his passport and clothes in his room and posted the passport to the SA embassy.

Nguyen Thi Thu Thanh, a friend of John’s, is helping Coleen get around the country as it’s her first time travelling abroad. Yesterday, they were set to travel to Binh Xuyen, where Johan had been teaching English.

“I believe I’ll find answers there,” Coleen says.

She doesn’t understand why Interpol came to her house in SA two weeks before her departure to gather new DNA samples of John’s. They were able to get the DNA from one of his razors and a pair of shoes that he’d worn without socks.

Coleen will also be meeting Faheema Daniels, the mother of SA citizen Mushfiq Daniels, in Ho Chi Minh City. Mushfiq, who’d also been teaching English, is also missing and was last seen on 5 July.

“I can only express my incredible gratitude for everyone’s love and support. People will never know how much I appreciate it.

“I’m constantly on my knees, praying that God will send the right people and channels my way. But I don’t have much time left – I’m flying back on Sunday,” Coleen says.

“I really wish I could be taking John home with me.”


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