Embattled travel operator al Mujaahiedeen has made its first refund to mu’tamireen who were affected by the company’s recent financial crisis, which effectively shut the company’s doors to future business. The payment was announced in a scheduled meeting at the offices of al Mujaahiedeen, between the founder and CEO of the operator, Imam Isgaak Cassim, and most of the 32 affected mu’tamireen two weeks ago. Cassim refunded just short of a third of the total amount of approximately R600 000 that is owed to the claimants.
The claimants were scheduled to travel for Umrah at the end of December last year. But, shortly before departure, flights for the journey were cancelled by Emirates Airlines Emirates Airlines due to a default of a payment that was arranged by the operator with the bank.
Speaking to VOC News, chairperson of the South African Travel and Haj Operators Association (SATHOA), Adam Jainodien, confirmed that the amount refunded was provided by an anonymous benefactor.
“There are certain claimants that [Cassim] has made arrangements to pay and the arrangement terms are not known to us,” Jainodien stated.
He explained that SATHOA had received confirmation of a signed offer by a buyer to purchase Cassim’s wife’s house, the family home, for the amount of R800 000.
The payment of the total refund is expected to be made once the sale of the family home is concluded.
“As far as the sale of the house is concerned, obviously, these things are subject to certain conditions being met. First and foremost, the buyer is qualified to pay either cash or through a bank loan and those facts have not yet been brought to our attention.
“The second condition is that the property is in his wife’s name and hence the claimants have no claim against the wife. So, there needs to be a mandate given by the wife to al Mujaahiedeen as a company, since the claim is against the company.”
The money that was refunded will be paid to claimants in proportion to each claim.
“One of the brothers has played the role of a curator in a context of ensuring fairness in the distribution of the amount, so that everyone is paid on a pro rata basis,” he added.
Given that the claims have not been concluded, Jainodien noted that SATHOA will continue to engage with all stakeholders, describing the mu’tamireen as having their “patience tested”.
“The group has been fairly active in engaging Isgaak Cassim to keep them abreast of the developments happen.”
He further commended Cassim for having taken measures to settle a portion of the company’s debt.
“He could have walked away…if he found himself insolvent. But, the fact that he has gone to get some money from other sources to pay out these people, gives us some ray of hope.”
Jainodien reaffirmed SATHOA’s commitment to ensure that operators abide by industry standards and encourages prospective mu’tamireen to make informed decisions when concluding contracts with travel companies.
“We are applying our minds in unification with SAMTA [the South African Muslim Travel Association] and looking at all these ‘pop-up shops’ in the context of people offering Umrah…there is no law in South Africa currently prohibiting any person from opening an agency or trading in Haj and Umrah.”