The holiday of a lifetime for more than 200 pensioners ended as a nightmare on Cape Town station yesterday.
They were abandoned in unfamiliar surroundings, at least 1400km from their homes and with no one to turn to.
The city's emergency services were eventually called in and provided the old timers with food and temporary shelter
The group had been promised a luxury train ride and excursions to beautiful attractions in the Mother City.
But the oldies from Gauteng were instead deserted and left to fend for themselves by the organisers when they arrived by train on Sunday afternoon.
The pensioners had each paid R1200 for their subsidised week-long holiday by the seaside.
Last year another group of pensioners fell for the same scam. They had arrived at Park Station to catch a train to Cape Town, but were told the trip had been cancelled because sponsors had pulled out at the last minute.
The pensioners were then transported home by the Gauteng Department of Social Welfare.
Both trips were organised by the Senior Citizen's Advisory Bureau (Scab), a non-governmental group based in Johannesburg.
The devastated pensioners in Cape Town, some as old as 90 years, were tired and hungry after a "long and gruelling" train ride".
"We were told meals would be served on the train and there would be bunks for us to sleep on. We were never given food, nor were there beds on the train," Elizabeth Matiwane said yesterday.
She said they arrived in Cape Town just after midday, but organiser Johanna Madiba was nowhere to be found.
The distraught pensioners feared the worst, but sat forlornly under a bridge just outside the station and waited until 7pm.
She said the abandoned holidaymakers called the police, who took them to Monwabisi Resort, just outside Cape Town.
"We were not given a schedule for the trip, but were told that we would visit Robben Island and the harbour."
A meeting was held between the travellers and the organisers, which produced no solutions.
Then Cape Town Disaster and Risk Management was called in to take care of the elders last night.
"We got a call from the resort's management that pensioners had spent a night here though their accommodation was not paid for by the trip organisers," said risk management spokesman Owen Sibeko.
"It is sad that they travelled through day and night from the comfort of their homes to face this," said Sibeko.
The aptly named Scab claims to look after the interests of pensioners by organising activities and holidays for the elderly.
One of the organisers, Patrick Ramano, was arrested for fraud in Cape Town yesterday, but his colleague Madiba quickly distanced herself from the affair.
"I am disappointed with the conduct of my colleague. We will have to sort this mess out and see to it that the elders reach home safely," said Madiba.
The organisers offered similar meaningless platitudes after last year's fiasco.
Then, as today, they relied on public officials to clean up their mess.
Asked about last year's chaotic non-trip that ended at Park Station in Johannesburg, Madiba said: "There was a misunderstanding between us and the trip sponsors, who withdrew funds at the last minute.
"I have been working with senior citizens for years. That was an unfortunate mishap."