The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) has stated that the return of 20% of SA’s annual hajj quota has not been confirmed by the Saudi Hajj Ministry, as previously suggested. VOC has been inundated with calls from the community after word of a possible increase of between five and thirty million pilgrims globally within the next five years stormed social media. In an interview with VOC, SAHUC’s Shaheen Essop clarified that the increase will not affect the hajj quota in SA but could mean 20% (500 more pilgrims) could be given back after it was taken away three years ago.
The current backlog will only be relieved within the next five to six years, Essop told VOC. However, he added that South Africans are under-represented in the Saudi Kingdom. Currently, Saudi authorities provide one access to the hajj per one thousands Muslims in any given country, while South Africa only sends 2000 hujaaj despite suggestions the Muslim population exceeds that.
“We have reached out to the government some years back relating to this matter. I have asked government to speak to the Statistician General to conduct a survey of Muslims. Unfortunately that request fell on a closed door. However, we did not leave it at that. We are trying to find a process within our community to try and ascertain the exact number of Muslims in South Africa,” Essop explained.
Currently, South Africa has around 16 000 first time hujaaj still on the waiting list. Essop compared this number with the backlog in Malaysia, which has a sixty-seven year backlog. However, other negative influences on the backlog also include the economy and drop-out rate.
“SAHUC is always going to be there to try and ensure that we get the correct quota for SA. It is imperative that we understand that we fill the quota and give preference to those who are first time hujaaj Insha-Allah. We will continuously endeavour to approach the Suadi Hajj Minsitry to give us a quota that could take us back to five or six thousand, which we had in the past,” Essop continued. VOC (Raeesah Isaacs)