Christo Bothma (54), a plant maintenance Manager from Potchefstroom was kidnapped by a terrorist group in Djibo, Burkina Faso, on the 23rd of September last year, 17 days before he was expected to return home to South Africa. Now, almost a year later his family are not sure if he is dead and alive, and fear they may lose their home.
Christo had started working at Avocet Mine in Burkina Faso back in 2014, in order to better provide for his wife of over 24 years, Amanda (50) and their three children. But, after the mine closed due to a technical shut down, Christo and the rest of the expats returned home.
Without his usual income, the family struggled financially. Fortunately, Christo eventually got his old job back last year, but with a significant pay cut and longer rotation periods.
After nearly four months away, Christo was due to return home, when Amanda received a life-changing and distressing phone call on the 24th of September 2018 from Steve Kruis from DIRCO (South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation).
“I got a phone call that Chris (along with) the owner’s son and the driver had been abducted by one of the Al Qaeda terrorist groups and their car was found 40km from the Mali border. We were traumatized by the news and were left with so many unanswered questions. All we wanted was for Christo to come home” says Amanda.
Her fears were confirmed when the mine owner, Mr Patel called and offered to pay the ransom once the kidnappers made contact.
On the 7th of November, after weeks of unanswered questions, Amanda received a call from the South African embassy in Burkina Faso that Christo had been released… but to her disappointment, it turned out to be incorrect information and Christo’s whereabouts were still painfully uncertain.
“When we heard that Christo had been released we were all ecstatic that it was over and that Chris was coming home. We were once again devastated to hear three days later that it was all ‘fake news’ “ says Amanda.
Distressed, Amanda reached out to Dr Sooliman from The Gift of the Givers, who has done everything in his power to get Christo and the other captives safely home.
Just after a team was sent to look for Christo, the kidnappers made contact demanding a hefty sum of money.
“On the 22nd of May, Dr Sooliman came to Potchefstroom to meet with me again, and to let me know that they had given the kidnappers a proposal of an X amount of money for the 6 people that they have in Mali of which Christo is one. (The kidnappers) rejected the proposal and came back with a $40 million proposal (approximately R100 million per person). We were devastated. Nobody has that kind of money,” says Amanda.
Unable to cover the ransom, the kidnappers made contact a second time, this time saying that Christo had died. To investigate the claim, Dr Sooliman sent his negotiator to Mali to determine what had happened to Christo.
“On the 1st of July I received the news that Chris had passed away on the 19th of June but it wasn’t confirmed. Dr Sooliman later made contact with two of his intermediaries who confirmed that Christo had passed. Until I see my husband’s body, I won’t believe that he is gone. I believe in my heart that he is still alive. Now it’s a waiting game to see if Chris has really passed, and if so, we need to find where he was buried and to bring him home to rest,” says Amanda.
Crowdfunding on BackaBuddy
To support the Bothma family through their ordeal and to make sure they are able to cover their household and living expenses during this difficult time, a family friend, Retha Kelly (45) has created a campaign on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy.
“Without Christo, the family is unable to cover the costs of the house bond, let alone food, electricity and other bare necessities. Which is why we started a campaign on Backabuddy for anyone wanting to lend their support,” says Retha, who met the family 12 years ago as fellow expats in a small village in Damang, Ghana West Africa.
The BackaBuddy campaign has already raised R20 766.71 towards the family’s living expenses with contributions from 10 donors.
“The funds I’m trying to raise is to pay our house not to use for myself, so that the bank doesn’t take it back. If Chris is really gone I don’t want to lose the one thing that we have, the memories we have in this house,“ says Amanda.
Support this cause on BackaBuddy: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/christo-bothma
*Funds raised will be transferred directly to the bank*
For Updates follow the Bothma Facebook page: