The South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) has expressed concern in the delay in the issuing of haj visas, caused by system problems on the side of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first few groups of hujaaj are expected to depart for the Kingdom from Monday 25th August onwards.
Sahuc president Shaheen Essop said similar problems were being experienced in a number of other countries as well. Sahuc, along with the haj operators and the local Saudi Embassy, were working tirelessly in the Kingdom to find a resolve to the issue.
“We’ve seen articles of India also experiencing problems where visas have not been issued as yet. There seems to be issues regarding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ system. As a result of that we are waiting to hear from our embassy here in South Africa when they will be processed,” he explained.
Essop said in previous years, the majority of visas would have been issued by this time already. However, he said the current issue was due to problems with new systems that were implemented by both the Hajj Ministry, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a result, an emergency meeting has been called by the Saudi Embassy set for this coming Friday.
“The expectation was that it was going to run smoothly, but lo and behold, it seems as if there were some technical glitches,” he said.
Despite concerns from the community, Essop insisted there was no need for hujaaj to start panicking. He also stressed that the issue was “out of the hands of Sahuc”, or any of the local haj operators.
“It is in the hands of the authorities in the Kingdom and this is what we have been working tirelessly with for the last 10 days,” he said.
About 270 people are expected to leave for the kingdom in the first week of departures, and Essop called on those individuals to stay in touch with their operators, to keep informed on the current situation. However, he was confident the issue could be resolved before the vast majority departed. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)