Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
TOURISM players in Victoria Falls were left counting their losses after a man masquerading as South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs Football Club’s agent made provisional bookings claiming the team would visit the resort town for 10 days.
Police have launched a manhunt for the man who identified himself as Thabiso Molife, who however, disappeared after soliciting for more than $1 000 from individuals.
The alleged con arrived in Victoria Falls on 24 December upon which he made provisional bookings with a number of hotels and lodges where he also got complimentary meals and accommodation as he convinced them he was preparing for Kaizer Chief’s visit.
Some operators were already counting their blessings in anticipation of mega business as he provisionally booked luxury cars and rooms. Also tricked were authorities at Victoria Falls International Airport where he obtained invoices with quotations for landing rights fees for $2 789 for the team’s plane and $526 national handling fees.
Some of the duped operators include Mayelane Tours, Tatenda Safaris, Shearwater Rest Camp, Deluxe Suites, Azambezi River Lodge, as well as Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and National Handling Services at Victoria Falls International Airport.
Amagagasi Football Club were also victims as they were handpicked to be the ones to welcome the team.
The suspected con would ask for money from each operator claiming it will be repaid when the team arrived on 27 December.
Mr Christopher Ndiweni of Mayelane Tours said he lost about $600 to the man who he also lent his car after agreeing on a deal for $10 050 for transfer services.
“I got a call that there was somebody who wanted to hire my buses to carry Kaizer Chiefs players for 10 days. I thought I had clinched a business deal of $870 per day for my buses which would translate to about $10 050 including VAT for the 10 days,” said Mr Ndiweni.
He said the man claimed all monies were to be transferred through BancABC.
“He was using my car and I gave him money for fuel. When we went to the bank he said his card had been retained and asked for $250 which I gave him.
He initially claimed the team would arrive on 27 December and later said they had postponed to 29. He asked for $325 more which I gave him,” added Mr Ndiweni who said he didn’t suspect the man was fake.
Molife hoodwinked his victims using some invoices with quotations from NHS and CAAZ, which Sunday News is in possession of. Mr Ndiweni made a report to the police on Friday after finding his car, a Camri, dumped at Shearwater Rest Camp where the suspect had been given a complimentary room to stay in.
He had free rooms and meals at Tatenda Safaris, Azambezi and Deluxe Suites as well. Mrs Tatenda Rangarirai Gunda of Tatenda Safaris said she alerted other players that the man was fake after communicating with Kaizer Chiefs officials via e-mail.
“I inquired with Kaizer Chiefs through e-mail and they were shocked to hear that saying they had no such trip. I alerted others and that’s when we checked in the room and found that he had left a pair of shoes,” she said.
Mrs Gunda said Molife had made provisional bookings for seven single and 15 twin rooms.
“We gave him a complimentary room thinking that he was genuine. He asked for $250 and a further $256 before asking for $100 on the third day saying Kaizer Chief’s owner Mr Kaizer Motaung was also coming and he wanted to prepare for him,” she said.
Shearwater public relations manager Mr Clement Mukwasi said they didn’t report him because they didn’t lose monetarily.
“We got a report from our operations team that a guy masquerading as a Kaizer Chiefs’ agent had made provisional bookings for the team.
He was treated to five-star hospitality on a complimentary basis and we were shocked later on to hear that he was a conman.
We didn’t make a report because we weren’t defrauded although our team had arranged logistics and we commiserate with those who were duped in cash,” he said.
On Friday neatly dressed Amagagasi Football Club management and players spent the day at the airport waiting to receive the travelling Kaizer Chiefs team.
Police officer commanding Victoria Falls District Chief Superintendent Jairos Chiwona confirmed receiving a report.
“I can confirm that we received a report from one person and investigations are in progress,” he said.
No arrest has been made so far.