Landlord ‘dupes’ Vic Falls tourists
Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
A landlord has been arrested in Victoria Falls after he allegedly duped dozens of tourists of huge sums of money in different currencies by booking them into non-existent rooms.
The victims are mainly from South Africa, Botswana and include locals who had visited the resort town for the just-ended Vic Falls Carnival.
Garikayi Mushambavanhu, owner of Sweet Homes Lodge, had allegedly booked six families each with between six and 13 members in the same rooms.
Mushambavanhu (43) of number 686 Syringa Road, Victoria Falls, was rescued by police on Sunday when the affected travellers manhandled him demanding their money back.
He bragged about his wealth in court saying he owns more than 20 houses in Victoria Falls as he pleaded not guilty to fraud when he appeared before Victoria Falls magistrate Ms Rangarirai Gakanje yesterday.
Mushambavanhu told the court that police were misdirected by arresting him.
“I’m a businessman owning more than 20 houses in this town. I’m not the one who should be arrested and police should arrest Sweet Homes because they are the ones renting my house,” he said.
Mushambavanhu allegedly advertises Sweet Homes Lodge and collects money from accommodation seekers even if there are no vacant rooms.
He also runs Anointed Investments, which manages his properties.
He is being investigated for operating a bogus estate agency and claiming to be registered lawyer as well as allegations of abusing ordinary tenants at his various properties by demanding rentals in United States dollars and evicting them willy-nilly when they fail to pay.
Allegations are that Mushambavanhu took advantage of the high demand for accommodation for the festive season and collected money for pre-booking from different tourists.
He allegedly advertised accommodation space at Sweet Homes Lodge for the carnival period. Six families of between six and 13 members each made pre-bookings for the rooms.
Chaos started when they discovered they were supposed to share substandard rooms. Some ended up sleeping on the floor and in bathrooms in one of Mushambavanhu’s buildings that he is constructing. They reported the matter to the police on Sunday.
A Botswana doctor, Samuel Bapusi, Ms Kerina Zvobgo who is a Zimbabwean based in Nigeria and Ms Violet Maludi Mabasa of South Africa whose families were duped testified yesterday.
Bapusi said he lost 55 000 pula while Ms Zvobgo and Mrs Maludi Mabasa lost $2 400 and R22 582 respectively. Investigations into other cases involving locals as victims are being investigated.
Prosecuting, Mr Onias Nyathi said the offence came to light when clients discovered that the rooms were double booked.
“On December 29 at around 8AM, the complainants booked rooms at Sweet Holiday Homes and the following day the accused took them to the lodge, which was already booked by other clients,” said Mr Nyathi.
The clients reported the matter to the police leading to Mushambavanhu’s arrest. The trial continues.