By Tasneem Adams
South African hujjaj who are financially prepared to take up the opportunity to perform hajj this year have 48 hours to inform the hajj regulator of their readiness to travel. So says South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) president Maulana Muhammad Vaid, following an eleventh-hour announcement that South Africa would be granted an additional quota of 500 for Hajj 1440. This means the South African delegation of hujjaj will be 4000, the largest number in years.
Sahuc has more than 30 000 first time hujjaj on its waiting list, which means a pilgrim can wait up to five years for accreditation. The hajj authority has admitted that the late quota poses many logistical challenges, however they are working around the clock to ensure that they are able to fullfill this quota.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat on Friday, Maulana Vaid said they have put out a call to pilgrims who are next in line on the accreditation list to take up the call of hajj. Any application in 2015 onwards will be considered in chronological order.
“The hujjaj must have completed their hajj registration and paid their Sahuc fees. They must have 100 points on the system and they must be prepared to travel on a 3 week package,” he explained.
The criteria includes:
– No repeat hujjaj
– No ex-pats or foreign passport holders residing in SA
– No caregivers will be considered
Hujajj must inform Sahuc of their willingess to travel by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by Saturday 6th July at 20h00.
The applicants will be placed in the chronological order of date and time priority and thereafter the first 500 will be accredited. These hujjaj will have another 48 hours to accept their accreditation and conclude contracts with their hajj operator.
The hajj regulator is in discussion with hajj operators, who are in the process of consolidating their packages for the 500 hujjaj. Hujjaj who accept the accreditation will have to travel on a three-week package. Vaid said with the hujjaj departures already underway, the logistical arrangements for the additional 500 pilgrims will take some time.
“The 4-week package will be difficult for us to accommodate, so 3 week packages will be feasible.”
For the hujjaj who applied in the year 2015 but are not ready to perform hajj this year, their position in the queue remains unaffected.
Operators have until the end of business on Friday to decide whether they can carry the additional hujjaj. However, Maulana Vaid said there were several prerequisites, such as the administrative and financial capability, manpower and the logistical rollout of the hajj.
South African Travel Haj Operators Association (Sathoa) chairperson Sedick Steenkamp said operators called an urgent meeting to discuss the implications of the added quota.
“Operators are unanimous that they are able to service the hujjaj and ensure the 500 are being catered for. We are doing everything in our power to put the logistics together and provide affordable packages so that the hujjaj can depart in the next two weeks, InshaAllah.”
Given that many of the 20 accredited haj operators are already in the Saudi Kingdom preparing for their travellers, Steenkamp said only 12 companies have expressed interest in accommodating the 500 hujjaj.
Maulana Vaid reassured that the Sahuc hajj and medical mission of 40 volunteers were equipped to deal with the extra load of hujjaj. They are currently in the Kingdom assisting the pilgrims that have already arrived in the holy cities. VOC