Hajj pilgrimage dream ends for 500

2013-06-22 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Five hundred South Africans who had already been accredited for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage will not be able to go.

Shaheen Essop, the chairperson of the SA Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc), which accredits pilgrims, said more than 16 974 registered this year to make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and the allowed 2 500 were accredited.

“After all the accreditations had been issued, the Hajj ministry in the Middle East sent a notice to several countries asking them to reduce their quotas by 20%,” Essop said yesterday.

The decision was taken because the Saudi government is busy with construction work around the Grand Mosque to expand its capacity, and because they want to ensure the safety of pilgrims.

Essop said the news was a disappointment for the 500 rejected pilgrims, and for Sahuc. “We have to rescind these accreditations. Most people understand that it is not a decision of the South African body.”

He said 18 tour operators are dealing with the disappointed pilgrims, who will enjoy priority next year.

Sahuc also approached President Jacob Zuma and the International Affairs Department for help. “They undertook to do what they could, but have not heard anything yet.”.

The first group of pilgrims leave on September 6. Muslim Judicial Council president Moulana Ihsaan Hendricks said they accept the explanation about the building programme.

International Relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela said they are aware of the situation, but could not give details on what is being done to help.

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