Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Mabare Tours and Travel Company is on the spot for conning sixteen tourists.
The tourists included Ugandans and several foreigners who had paid for an Easter package trip to Murchison falls National Park
The tourists paid between 350,000 shillings to 1 million shillings to the company’s CEO Sam K. Mugabe. The trip to Murchison falls included offers of a boat cruise, game drive, and sightseeing.
The group departed from Kampala on April 19, 2019, but were abandoned just a day after at a hotel in Masindi where the group members claim Mugabe didn’t pay the hotel bill, their transport back to Kampala and meals.
Pascal Kiyuba, one of the tourists, said he paid 700,000 shillings, for himself and the wife.
Members paid depending on whether you were travelling with wife or children; you were a foreigner or Ugandan.
Herbert Kanyira, another tourist, said he paid 870,000 shillings for himself, wife, and child.
According to a member of the group, individual foreigners paid $169 to $189.
“Everything went on well up to Pakwach,” Kiyuba said. “The journey was long and we just rested. I slept in the Global village hotel and others slept in the Heritage hotel in Pakwach.”
The following day on April 20, 2019, they travelled to the Murchison Park for a scheduled drive. According to Kiyuba, they had also planned a boat cruise but it didn’t happen, perhaps the first sign that something was beginning to go wrong.
“He told us the network was poor and he could not call the person who was supposed to call us,” he said. “We said let us chill the [boat] cruise since its late and he [the tour operator] offered to refund the money we had paid for the cruise.”
The tourists then travelled to Masindi and checked into Kabalega Resort, where they were supposed to depart from on the morning of April 21 to head back to Kampala.
At the hotel, the guests realized that they had been removed from the WhatsApp group the proprietor had created.
“He removed us from the group and blocked us,” said Kiyuba.
In the morning, they were surprised when they could not see Mugabe who was doing all the arrangements and supposed to pay.
The hotel manager informed them that their bills were unsettled and they had to clear the bill before they left. This sparked off a marathon of pleadings with some people saying they didn’t have money because they had paid the tour company for all the arrangements.
At that moment, Masindi police were called in to help the situation. After listening to both sides – the hotel and the abandoned tourists – it realized they were genuine, said one of the group members.
They collected 25,000 shillings each which they left with the hotel manager and another 25,000 shillings to fuel vehicle to transport them back to Kampala.
David Watti Makuma, the Kabalenga Resort Hotel manager in Masindi, says that Mugabe owed the hotel 2.2 million shillings.
“We have tried to get him but we have not succeeded. I have involved the police, UPDF, and Uganda Tourism Board but [we are yet to get him],” he said.
Makuma said the people abandoned at the hotel included Japanese, Pilipino, a Pakistani, Indian, and Ugandans.
On April 23, Mabare tours posted on Facebook the pictures of tourists taken during the trip with a caption: “Photos taken during our 19th-21st April Murchison Falls national park Easter gateway.”
In the pictures, the tourists smiled and others were captured jumping in a celebratory mood.
This was on the first day when everything seemed to go according to plan.
Efforts to reach Mugabe through his known mobile phone have been futile. The contacts listed on the Mabare Tours and Travel website were unreachable.
On the website, the company says: “we value our clients’ interests and therefore provide them with their desired the safari experience in Uganda and East Africa.”