Joburg friends feel 'scammed' after R150k Zanzibar holiday bombshell
Sheila Maluleka planned to spice up her 40th birthday with a trip to Zanzibar but ended up with nothing to celebrate when the holiday went horribly awry.
Maluleka, from Johannesburg, and three friends said they lost more than R150,000 after booking the ill-fated trip with Breakaway Travel, an agency in Cape Town owned by Crescenda "Chris" Meyer.
"I am so mad and angry. This was supposed to be my first overseas trip. I wanted to have a special birthday celebration," said Maluleka.
The group had planned to celebrate Maluleka's birthday with their partners over three days in Zanzibar in November.
Duduzile Madubanga, 35, said: "We made bookings for flights and accommodation for three nights. There were many travel agencies we could have used, but we used this one because she [Meyer] had on two occasions’ organised trips for me."
They paid deposits and settled the bill, as requested, upfront and asked for confirmation of flights and accommodation being booked.
Pertunia Mushwana, 35, said a day before the trip (they planned to depart on November 10) she checked online and discovered her ticket was invalid. She called Mango to verify the travel details and discovered that a booking had initially been made, but was later automatically cancelled due to nonpayment.
Maluleka said what angered her most was that the travel agent sent her a message wishing her a happy birthday. "I am not going to rest until she pays back our money. She will not get away with this," said Maluleka.
The would-be holidaymakers said their bags were packed and ready when they heard the bad news. Madubanga had taken leave from work and had asked her mother to care for her children.
The livid friends said they had opened a case of theft with the police. Police spokesperson Capt Agnes Huma confirmed that a case had been opened and said an investigation was under way.
Several attempts were made to get the other side of the story from Meyer. In an e-mail she told TimesLIVE: "The trip is going to be refunded to the clients as stipulated to them."
She asked to be sent questions two days later but has yet to respond. In an email sent to the irate group on November 16, Meyer apologised.
"A corporate client of mine was supposed to pay me the necessary monies but he has just informed me that he isn't able to transfer the necessary .... He has indicated that it would be done either Monday or Tuesday. After I receive the funds I can refund you all. I will refund the necessary with interest. I do not want any further trouble please," she wrote.
She is yet to refund the group.
"We all have problems but we don’t get around eating people’s money. We worked hard for our money. She must just pay us back," said Maluleka.