Following investigations of complaints of mismanagement in the local umrah industry, VOC News was alerted to two families, the Anthony’s and the Patel’s, who were left stranded only days before they were scheduled to perform the spiritual journey. While the Anthony’s have requested that their story not be told at this time, Naeem Patel from Johannesburg says he paid local umrah operator Umrah Connect International R60, 000 to secure the booking for his wife, Luthfiyah, and their two children. But as the time drew closer to departure, he was informed that since their vaccination cards were not handed over with their passports, their visas could not be issued.
Patel explained that he initially communicated with Amina, the wife of the co-founder and spiritual leader of Umrah Connect International, Imam Fasiegh Adams. Soon after he was informed that her cell-phone was stolen and he began communicating with Imam Fasiegh.
“For about two or three weeks, or even a month, we were told that Imam Fasiegh was actually supposed to come to Johannesburg and fetch our passport,” Patel stated.
Following failed attempts to secure the trip, Patel said he is claiming R60, 000 from the company, which was paid into the Umrah Connect International’s bank account as listed on its website.
Citing bank statements, which VOC News has seen, Patel said he paid a R60,000 installment of the total R90,000 for the full package.
“The money was paid into Umrah Connect International’s account – that’s the name of the account. I do have proof of payment and I was given a receipt by imam Fasiegh.”
Patel said he constantly enquired about the status of his travel arrangements and was told that everything was being finalised.
“Imam actually came to my home [and] he spent the night with us. He collected our passports and it was taken to Cape Town the next day.”
A week before they were scheduled to leave for umrah, the Patel’s were informed that they would not be flying – due to the absence of their vaccination cards as stated by Umrah Connect international.
LISTEN: Naeem Patel discusses the problems he faced when booking with UCI
In a terse and tense interview with VOC reporter Thakira Desei, Imam Fasiegh Adams sought to defend Umrah Connect International’s handling of the matter. The interview came after weeks of to-ing and fro-ing with the operator’s management in trying to connect the dots of this story.
While Adams said that he has been advised not to provide details on the matter by his attorneys, he said that “when it comes to office work, there are office workers”.
“Because there were office workers, there was someone in charge of our bookings, ensuring that our mu’tamireen have a safe travel and that everything is booked accordingly.”
Adams said that he was unable to publicize the name of individuals he alleged had mismanaged the office.
“However, there has been mismanagement and misappropriation in the office,” he stated.
At the time that both the Anthony and Patel families were communicating with the company, two individuals were employed to run the office; an office manager and a secretary.
Both employees have since left from the company.
LISTEN: VOC’s full discussion with Imam Fasiegh Adams
Meanwhile, one of the mu’tamireen who is scheduled to travel with Umrah Connect International in March this year, Ragheema September, said she previously traveled with Imam Fasiegh Adams in his personal capacity in 2014 and 2015 and fully trusts his word.
“I’ve booked with him and I’ve got whatever I was promised both times. Now I have booked with him and I am on my way and I can clearly say, everything has been booked.”
Though she admitted to having heard allegations against Imam Fasiegh Adams, September says she is not deterred by what she describes as “false claims”.
“I work hard for my money and I will never let my money go down the drain. I trust imam Fasiegh with my life no matter who said what.”
Umrah Connect International has indicated that it will refund both the Patel and Anthony families by the end of March this year.