Woman seeks order to declare kidnapped husband dead
Publish date: 27 November 2023
Issue Number: 1055
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Nearly five years after her husband was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in Burkina Faso and reportedly died under suspicious circumstances, a South African woman has asked a judge to declare him dead and to dissolve their 28-year marriage. News24 reports that father-of-six Christo Bothma was employed as a maintenance superintendent at Société des Mines de Bélahouro SA in Burkina Faso when he was abducted with the mine owner's son, Vikrambhai Akoliya, on 23 September 2018. That day was the last time he communicated with his wife and daughter. At the time, they were travelling to the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou, without any security. In papers filed at the North West High Court (Mahikeng), Amanda Bothma revealed that Akoliya had told her attorneys that he believed her husband had been murdered by al-Qaeda, after the two men were separated. ‘Whereas Vikrambhai's statement notes that he was informed by an al-Qaeda operative, whom he styles as a ‘commander,’ that Christo died between March and April (2019) due to his ailing health, this is contradicted by the version of events that Vikrambhai recounted to my attorneys,’ she said.
Akoliya reportedly said Christo had fought with one of his captors and was killed during the incident. News24 reports that she said her husband had suffered from high blood pressure, but denied he was a diabetic, as asserted by Akoliya. She said her attorneys had also been informed by Gift of the Givers, which had sought to help her in bringing her husband home, that Christo may have been murdered by al-Qaeda. ‘Christo's captors demanded R1.7m ($90 000) for proof of his death. I was advised by Gift of the Givers against the payment of such a ransom, because proof of death could be anything and not necessarily Christo's mortal remains,’ she said. The lead officer on her husband's case had noted that ‘while I may have been informed that Christo is now deceased, the SAPS has not closed their file on the matter because there is no proof of death and, for all they know, Christo could still be alive,’ she said. ‘This further necessitates my approaching the court for appropriate relief.’ Bothma's application will be heard next week.