By Rukaya Mosavel
Amid growing frustration that the hajj is becoming increasingly out of reach for working-class hujjaj, the United Council of South African Hujaaj (UCSAH) have initiated a petition to garner attention on the matter. A number of local activists believe hajj is exorbitantly priced and is being monopolised by certain travel agencies and providers.
UCSAH amir Bilal Adamjee said the aim of the petition is to create awareness on the key challenges facing the hajj industry. Thus far there are approximately 5000 signatures from Muslims in the various provinces. They hope to present the petition to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
The petition is aimed at anyone finding the process of applying and paying for Hajj challenging, or those who have experienced difficulties are encouraged to sign the petition.
“Those that have been on hajj and experienced tremendous difficulty and prospect ones who want to go, but are finding the prices very unaffordable,” said Adamjee.
The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc), the primary agency responsible for all hajj matters, is accused of not regulating the industry effectively. UCSAH’s view is that Sahuc should not have travel agents sitting in positions on Sahuc’s board, as this creates a conflict of interest.
“You cannot be a referee and a player in the same game. Sahuc needs to regulate the travel agents. What we are saying is that Sahuc should try and regulate this industry and should make Hajj affordable. There shouldn’t be collusion or monopoly in this where the travel agents are making exorbitant profits,” said Yacoob Beit, the public relations officer of UCSAH.
The primary objective of the online petition is to support the industry to be more affordable and easier for everyone to have the opportunity to go for Hajj.
“But the regrettable thing about Sahuc is that they have become profit orientated. There is absolutely no transparency or accountability. There are serious shortcomings on the part of Sahuc. Despite the fact that we had bilateral meetings with them last year. They didn’t take into account any of the suggestions that we made to assist the hujjaj and to improve the service,” said Beit.
Sahuc is accused of having a surplus believed to be close to 15 million rand, despite being a non-profit organisation. They are also accused of not being transparent and not engaging with allegations from the public.
In previous interviews on VOC, Sahuc defended this, saying the monies are used are in line with organisation’s constitution “for the benefit of the ummah”. Sahuc chairperson Maulana Muahmmad Vaid was at pains to state that the money is not for any personal gain and the organisation’s financials are audited. After achieving hundreds of signatures, UCSAH wishes to take these petitions to government and represent the voice and concerns of the people.
“If Sahuc is not fulfilling what they should for the people, then we got a serious problem,” said Adamjee.
“The more signatures we get… the better we can take this to government and show the government that the people are talking.”
UCSAH has urged the public to sign the petition and pledge their support to affordable Hajj rates and opportunities for everyone.
Sahuc declined to comment on the matter.