Cape Town/Hanoi - According to the Gift of the Givers, organ traffickers may be behind the disappearance of two South African teachers in Vietnam.
John Bothma and Mushfiq Daniels both worked as teachers in Ho Chi Minh City and both vanished under mysterious circumstances. While the men did not know each other, there are marked similarities in their disappearances.
Bothma from Kempton Park was last seen in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on May 18, while Daniels’ family last heard from their son on July 3.
Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman told IOL that in February this year Vietnamese police smashed a trafficking ring.
"From the statistics it seems that from the 95 million population, 5 million require organ donations. He said there was a demand for organs such as heart, lung, liver, kidneys and eyes," he said.
Sooliman, who had been researching the men's cases after being approached for assistance by their families, said while this was pure speculation at this stage he had come to this conclusion after eliminating the five major reasons the two men may have gone missing.
"If they were killed or injured, we would have received information that they were in hospital or in a morgue.
"It can't be linked to terrorism because there are no terror groups in Vietnam. (When it comes to) human trafficking; more women are taking for human trafficking because of prostitution.
"If it was drug related then they would be in contact with their families. The only other possible reason is organ trafficking."
“My gut feel is they have been taken for organ trafficking,” said Sooliman. “The only other circumstance where people would disappear is in hostage situations. This is not a hostage situation.
“John was supposed to come home on June 1 on a short holiday. Mushfiq wanted to come home on July 5 also for a holiday and asked his family to deposit money for airfare into his account. The money was deposited but apparently wasn’t retrieved,” said Sooliman.
Daniels’ mother Fahiema Abrahams is in Vietnam. According to what his family have found, is that he was seen in Phu Nhuan, in Ho Chi Minh City on July 5. He was wearing red shorts and carrying a backpack. Sooliman believes there are too many similarities between the two disappearances.
“It seems there was a female involved in some way in both cases, whether this was a negative contributing factor or purely incidental is something we want to look at.
“John told his aunt that his relationship with some lady called Jody Kurash was a big mistake. Mushfiq’s family said they had serious misgivings of a lady called Lauren, whom they met with in Vietnam, who appeared to have some kind of ‘relationship’ or ‘association’ with Mushfiq,” he added.
There has been speculation on social media by Daniels’ family that he may have experienced some sort of mental breakdown. Daniels left South Africa in March last year to teach English at a school in Ho Chi Minh City. On the day of his disappearance, a friend apparently saw him and said he appeared distressed.
Bothma had arrived in Vietnam last November.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation is assisting in trying to find the men.
Vietnam suffers from a shortage of legitimate donors, with many people refusing because they believe the organs are needed for the afterlife.
Five kidney brokers in Ho Chi Minh City, who police say were part of Vietnam's largest-ever organ trafficking ring, were arrested earlier this year.
The ring, led by Ton Nu Thi Huyen, 44, began brokering organs in May 2017 when Huyen attempted to sell her own kidney, the Vnexpress news site reported.
She was arrested along with four others, ranging in age from 20 to 28 years old. Police allege that the group would find sellers on social media, usually from poor rural parts of the country.
They would pay donors 200 million Vietnamese dong (R132 600) and sell their organs for around R320 000. "Hundreds" of kidneys were allegedly brokered by the group, according to police, who were also investigating possible links to international organized crime.
If found guilty of trading body parts, each member of the group could face up to life in prison.
IOL and dpa