Twenty years after Alison Botha’s brutal attack made international headlines, the story of her miraculous survival and inspiring message is reaching a new audience on stage and in front of the cameras.
WORDS Melissa Reitz PHOTOGRAPH Raquel Stephenson/Create Design
In December 1994, 27-year- old Alison was abducted from outside her flat in Port Elizabeth and driven to a remote spot where she was raped, disembowelled and left for dead. Following her remarkable physical and emotional recovery, she has spent most of her subsequent life inspiring others worldwide through her book I Have Life and inspirational talks.
Recently, a stage adaptation of I Have Life (penned by Marianne Thamm) and the imminent filming of a documentary have affected her deeply, says Alison. “Reliving the ordeal was emotional at times but also gave me perspective again. It reminded me that, wow, I actually survived that!”
A Garden Route resident for 10 years, Alison lives in George with her two sons, Daniel, 10, and Mathew, 7. South caught up with her for a chat, finding her warm, funny and down to earth. “I don’t see myself as superhuman, I chose to survive that night because I felt I was worthy of my life.”
Moved by Alison’s book, former M-Net presenter Suanne Braun convinced award-winning director Maralin Vanrenen to write and direct a stage adaptation of the book. Part of the Johannesburg Women’s Festival in August 2014, the show, which starred Suanne, received standing ovations every night of its two-week run.
The audience was given insight into Alison’s mind as a background cast voiced her thoughts throughout the ordeal. Despite the emotional challenge of reliving her attack through the play, Alison delighted audiences with a surprise appearance after some of the performances. “I loved being part of the theatre experience and was so impressed by Maralin and the cleverness of the show.”
Plans are afoot to feature I Have Life at festivals in 2015 and a tour to Port Elizabeth, George and Cape Town is on the cards.
Inspired by Alison’s talk, Uga Carlini, filmmaker and CEO of Cape Town-based film company Towerkop Creations, obtained the rights to make a 90-minute documentary about Alison and her life. Titled Alison, filming started in November and follows her daily life. It will be released in South African theatres in English and Afrikaans, and the producers are hoping for an international release at global film festivals.
Towerkop plans to follow the documentary with a full-length feature film.
Recent focus on her story, however, has not all been positive. Alison is faced with the possibility of her attackers being released from prison despite having received life sentences and a judge’s recommendation at the time that they should never be released back into society.
In 2011 a legislative change allowed all prisoners sentenced before 2004 and serving a life sentence the right to apply for parole if they completed 13 years or more. This means about 5 000 serious offenders, including Alison’s attackers Theuns Kruger and Frans du Toit, could walk free. Unsettled by the news, Alison says: “It’s a bigger problem than just my attackers getting out, it’s all 5 000 of them!”
Although both applied and were denied parole, they can apply again in August 2015 after serving 20 years. Alison says she will have to make an application to Correctional Services to be included in the hearing. “The police want the victims to have their input but the system isn’t user-friendly and I feel that this needs to be improved so that everyone affected by major crime can have their say.”
The final decision on their release lies with the Minister of Correctional Services and already 11 000 people have signed a petition to keep them behind bars. To sign the petition, visit www.alison.co.za
Alison has not let this potential setback taint her positive outlook on life. “I can’t allow myself to believe they will get out.”
Instead, she focuses on her number one priority – being a mom. To spend less time away from home due to her speaking engagements, Alison recently joined the real-estate business. “I love living in the Garden Route, so the idea of matching people to their dream homes in this area appeals to me,” she says of her new career.