By Thakira Desai
In preparation for the Hajj 1438, the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) on Saturday hosted its annual Hajj roadshow. The roadshow, which was hosted at Belgravia High School in Belgravia, was the third leg, following the completion of the Johannesburg and Durban events. Sahuc, though not obligated, hosted numerous accredited haj operators, providing prospective hujjaaj an opportunity to interact with the operators in order that they may make an informed decision when choosing an operator with which to travel. In addition, Sahuc addressed hujjaaj about the logistical arrangements when proceeding with hajj.
Speaking at the event, first deputy president of Sahuc, Maulana Muhammad Vaid, commenting on queries about the regulator’s registration fee explained that in order for Sahuc to deliver a product and a process that ensures transparency, costs are necessary.
Of the challenges that Sahuc faces, he notes that numerous prospective hujjaaj neglect to complete their application forms rendering their application unsuccessful and, therefore, urges all applicants to ensure that they read the guidelines and terms and conditions when applying.
“Don’t just assume that you are on the system, double check and make sure you have fulfilled all the criteria,” he stated.
Given the stringent quota system, he affirmed that at present opportunity is only given to first time hujjaaj, where it currently has in excess of 17 000 first time hujjaaj in the queue.
“Through the Sahuc system, the only time you will be able to go as a repeat hajji is if you are a mahram. Other than that if you get in it means that the information that you have furnished on the system is incorrect.
“That is why I highly encourage and advocate that if you are aware of persons who have performed haj and are reoccurring to go, then in good faith and justice alert the SAHUC offices.”
Since the first list was released on 10 January 2017, four subsequent lists have been released to the public.
Vaid confirmed that Sahuc has received cancellations and transfers of accreditation, which will continue until the quota is filled.
He says that if an accredited candidate cancels or transfers accreditation, the next candidate in the queue receives the accreditation.
“It’s not that ‘I am accredited and cannot go, so I have the opportunity to suggest or choose someone else’ – It is a fair system,” Vaid adds.
He further notes that 90-93 per cent of the accreditation process is complete.
Choosing an operator
Vaid explained that all accredited hujjaaj have until March 31, 2017, to log onto the system and choose an operator of choice.
Due to financial constraints, he said that hujjaaj need to remain vigilant of the rand/dollar exchange rate when choosing an operator and planning their respective payments.
Importantly, he encourages, where possible, hujjaaj make a once-off payment in order to avoid financial inconveniences if drastic changes occur in the exchange rate.
“With regards to SAHUC, our budget is in excess of R1700, and we all know that the current price you pay for registration is R1230. So alhamdullillah, we are able to subsidise every hajji.”
Echoing calls from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in the Kingdom, when signing with an operator, Mohamad encourages all hujjaaj to thoroughly study their contracts prior to signing the official document.
He further states that hujjaaj need to understand the cancellation clauses prior to signing their contracts.
“You need to know what is going to be delivered to you as far as accommodation in Makkah, Madina, and if so, Aziziyah, [as well as]with regards to your flight information on a road trip. So it is very important that you ensure, before concluding and making any payment, that whatever you are purchasing must be put down [on a contract]and signed.”
Hujjaaj will be able to locate the contracts on the SAHUC website and that of the ministry. So, in the event that hujjaaj wish to query discrepancies during the journey they are able to easily access the contract for clarification.
Prospective hujjaaj are also urged to remain mindful when selecting an operator that an operator who by March 31, 2017, does not book a minimum of 50 passengers will be disqualified and hujjaaj contracted with the operator will need to choose an alternate operator.
“We will not allow merges between operators, so it’s essential that [hujjaaj]make an informed choice – let’s not go with sentiments and emotions.”
Vaid mentioned that hujjaaj who are prescribed chronic medication users need to ensure that the necessary medication is carried in their hand luggage, accompanied with the prescription.
“Very pertinent for anyone who is on insulin, insulin is not available in Saudi Arabia,” he elaborated.
Given the fact that hujjaaj are bound by security rules of travel, no hajji will be allowed through security with any liquid in excess of a 100ml bottle – any liquids in excess of this need to be stored in the main luggage.
With regards to the on-going issue of drug smuggling that occurs during haj, he asserts that within the Kingdom, drug trafficking is punishable by death.
In addition, while ATM’s are freely accessible, hujjaaj are advised to carry reasonable amounts of cash on their person and where possible to split cash between spouses in the event that money is lost.
Hujjaaj should also ensure that they keep copies of their passports in their bags and, where necessary, each spouse should keep copies of the passports in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
“Upon your arrival in Madina, the Mu’assassa, which is a department of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, will take away your passport and the passport will remain in their custody up to the day that you return.”
Vaid says that while hujjaaj are the guests in the house of Allah, they are also the guests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and, therefore, discouraged individuals from involving themselves in politicised “agenda’s” or illegal activity.
In addition to the spiritual preparations, he further encouraged hujjaaj to physically prepare for the journey, since it entails strenuous physical activity on a day-to-day basis.