There has been a renewed hope of having South African teacher, Mushfiq Daniels, return home following recent sightings in Ho Cho Minh City, Vietnam. But, his family is in need of more support to continue their search. Daniels’ family traveled to Vietnam shortly after the 28-year-old went missing in July. The family has not heard from him since 3 July.
As the news of her son’s disappearance sunk in, Faheema Daniels had not wanted to speak to the media. She explained that Mushfiq sought the approval of his family when he saw an opportunity to grow. When she had seen him in December 2018, he was ‘perfectly fine’.
“Mushfiq was all excited and obviously wanted our blessing…he fell in love with Vietnam and decided to go and teach – that was in March last year. He did a TEFL course in Ho Chi Minh City and taught at (a) school there for almost a year. I actually came to visit him in December, he’d invited me to spend my birthday with him because I was missing him so much. He was happy, healthy and enjoying teaching,” she said.
The exhausted mother explained that prior to his disappearance she had regular contact with Mushfiq.
“We’d send each other messages on how we were doing, what we were doing and inspirational little messages every morning. So, this was our contact. I knew though, I just had that gut feeling, that something wasn’t the same. I knew that somehow.”
Faheema added that Mushfiq had embarked on a “spiritual” journey to Indonesia.
She noted that although she wanted to see him before Eid, she agreed that Mushfiq should take the opportunity to explore the country ‘of his heritage’. However, upon returning from the journey, he had not been the same.
Faheema’s last conversation with Mushfiq was on 3 July, two days before he was last seen outside of the school.
“I noticed something was amiss because he didn’t sound himself. I was trying to wait and see – I had a lot of time for introspection and thinking and pondering on what could have been going on.”
She then approached Mushfiq’s friends and colleagues to gain more clarity, but they too had not picked up on any differences.
“They didn’t notice anything. I got in touch with someone from Malaysia that was with Mushfiq on that particular day (he went missing) – I think it was close to the end of June. I asked him, ‘Please tell me if Mushfiq is okay, because I have this feeling Mushfiq is not doing well’,” she said.
The friend had assured Faheema that everything was fine.
“No, No, aunty, Mushfiq is okay, but obviously a mother knows better.”
“The thing that got me was when he [Mushfiq] said to me, ‘Mom, I’m exhausted’ and ‘Mom, I’m not sleeping’. That, for me, was what I was really worried about.”
Faheema explained that she is disappointed in the assistance she received from the Vietnamese government and that she suspects it has been due to negative media reports in South Africa.
In August, local media blew up with talk of possible organ harvesting after the Daniels family approached the Gift of the Givers Foundation for assistance.
Founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman had made remarks that Mushfiq and John Bothma, a 22-year-old teacher from Roodepoort who also went missing, were possibly captured by an organ harvesting syndicate. Bothma has not yet been found and was last seen in Vietnam on 18 May.
“I would like to highlight that it’s not easy for me to speak about it. I know this is why our family couldn’t speak too soon. I’ve been having a hard time with the negative media.”
Faheema indicated, however, that a South African woman had spotted Mushfiq two weeks ago, barefoot and bare-chested.
“When she saw Mushfiq in the street, she was so shocked because Mushfiq was bare feet and bare-chested and she knew something was amiss.
She tried to talk to him, and he just walked away like somebody that doesn’t know what’s going on – someone that’s totally disorientated.”
Faheema further explained that there is a history of mental illness in the family and that she suspects that after returning from his spiritual journey, Mushfiq had also fallen victim to a mental breakdown.
“I’ve been dealing with this illness for ten years, I know exactly what it is. This is what happened to Mushfiq and he tried to protect me and tried to handle it on his own. But this is way beyond him,” said Faheema.
“I know the signs (and) the symptoms. I know exactly what he is going through right now because without medication or medical assistance he is losing memory like you won’t believe.”
She sadly acknowledged that issues like these are seldom spoken about in her community.
“It’s hard for us to speak about it, especially in our [Muslim] culture. People don’t pay attention to things like this… you can speak about any other illness, but you cannot speak about a mental illness.”
Faheema has appealed for more boots on the ground and for financial assistance to continue the search for her missing son.
“The area he was last seen in is about as big as Mitchells Plain, so it’s quite challenging. Everywhere you go, you have to travel on a bike. We are in need of manpower – people on the streets. It’s a huge area and we are just three people…we’ve been searching day and night.”