Hajj hopefuls await SA quota

2012-03-14 00:00

MORE than 2 000 Muslims in KwaZulu-Natal remain uncertain about whether they can perform the Hajj this year.

Shaheen Essop, the secretary-general of the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC), told The Witness that the number of South Africans who will be able to perform the pilgrimage in October this year will only be revealed on Sunday, when Sahuc representatives meet Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj.

“We don’t know what the quota is going to be. We are still in the process of going to meet with the ministry,” he said.

“In the meantime any speculation about the quota is just that — speculation. No confirmed [number] has been allocated to South Africa yet.”

Due to the quota system, applicable to South Africa only since 2006, SAHUC requires that all individuals wanting to perform the Hajj apply for accreditation.

Each applicant is given a score based on various criteria like age, and when he/she last performed the Hajj. Unsuccessful applications are automatically carried over to the next year.

According to statistics available on the SAHUC website, 9 105 South Africans are awaiting news of the outcome of their applications, 23% (2 098) of whom are KZN people.

The official annual quota for South Africa is 2 500, said Essop, but each year SAHUC makes representation for aconcessionary increase of up to 7 000.

Last year the kingdom firmly finalised the quota at 3 000, although 8 000 people had applied, leading to outrage within the community.

Various reports later emerged of scams, one of which involved people spending thousands of rands purchasing their Hajj visas from neighbouring African countries.

Hoosain Khan, the managing director of well-known KZN-based Hajj and Umrah operator Travel and Tour World, said he was considering abandoning the Hajj side of his business because of the substantial sums of money lost last year.

“We have to financially commit to booking property in Saudi Arabia well in advance of Hajj, or we won’t be able to get any,” he explained.

“As Hajj travel agents it’s very difficult to plan.

“People apply to SAHUC first and only once they are successful are they required to choose their operator. This isn’t a good system. It’s very high risk for us.

“What SAHUC needs to do is to allocate a specific number of accreditations to each operator.”

Hajj is one of the fundamentals of Islam. It is compulsory upon every Muslim who is financially and physically able to undertake it. Close to two million pilgrims from around the world converge on the city of Mecca and its surroundings during the five days that constitute the pilgrimage.

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