20 hujaaj set to depart for the Saudi Kingdom next week may be left behind as a result of Ministry of Hajj regulations on travel operators.
Although he did not reveal the name of the travel operator involved, South African Hajj and Umrah Council President Shaheen Essop says due to Saudi regulations on the minimum amount of pilgrims an operator may take on hajj, the unnamed entity was forced to merge with another.
“This … operator had received funds from the pilgrims [but] he had not yet paid those funds to the entity … he had merged with. You’re not allowed to operate with less than fifty pilgrims, and he did not have that amount. As a result of this, this operator has been trying to raise the funds to fulfill his obligations in order for the pilgrims to be able to depart for the Kingom.”
Essop could not say whether the pilgrims would be left behind if the operator could not come up with the funds before their departure date of 1 September.
“I can’t speculate on that now … investigations are still ongoing, information is being gathered around the matter still,” Essop said.
But Essop said other than misspelled names on passports and the delay in visas being issued two weeks ago, most hujaaj are ready to depart for the Saudi Kingdom without obstacles in their way.
Earlier today, the South African Travel Haj Operator’s Association (Sathoa), Sedick Steenkamp, said the group were scheduled to depart for the Saudi Kingdom on Monday 1st September. He noted Sathoa were currently seeking to address the issue.
Steenkamp said: “All the monies [they paid to the operator]are not available at the moment. Sathoa and Sahuc [the haj regulator]are dealing with the matter currently.”
While Steenkamp declined to divulge the name of the haj operator, he confirmed that it was a member of Sathoa.
“Once we finish our investigation in the new few days, we will make full disclosure, inshaAllah”.
The group of pilgrims were informed of the problems last week. Steenkamp said Sahuc and Sathoa were working to resolve the matter and ensure the hujjaj departed on schedule. VOC