As potential hujjaaj begin to prepare for pilgrimage, the all important aspect of accreditation is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks. In order to facilitate the process, the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) hosted its annual awareness roadshow at the Athlone Civic centre on Saturday. SAHUC president, Shaheen Essop, explained that the turnout at the Cape Town roadshow was impressive and prospective hujjaaj were well-informed about the processors.
“SAHUC is very pleased when we bring the roadshow to the Western Cape, as it is very well attended and attendees are very attentive in terms of the processors,” Essop stated.
Essop urged individuals, who were unable to attend the roadshow and are unsure about the process of accreditation and travel related issues, to visit SAHUC’s Western Cape branch.
SAHUC currently has 16 mission members and 10 medical personnel, which is stipulated by the Hajj Ministry. The mission sees to the needs of the Hujjaaj and acts as an interface between the Hajj operators and the Saudi authorities.
“The funds that are used to facilitate this mission are received in terms of Hajj fees that are collected after the accreditation of the pilgrims. This goes back into the repatriation of services to the pilgrims.”
Essop explained that the mission facilitated the established of clinics in Madina, Makkah, and Azizia. The clinics, which are fully stocked with medication from South Africa, provide patients with access to qualified medical practitioners.
On arrival into the Kingdom, hujjaaj are greeted by SAHUC officials, who facilitate the process of arrival and the travel to hotels. The mission workers also facilitate smooth travelling between the various cities.
During the Hajj period, certain mission workers are tasked with shadowing the process in order to ensure that due process is followed and that hujjaaj are satisfied with their travel experience.
“Alhamdulillah, we have done what we need to, and we would like to add more mission members, but we cannot on the basis of a ratio of 2000 pilgrims,” Essop noted.
Essop explained that disseminating hardcopy booklets, which details the processors discussed at the road show, is costly. He further stated that as information is constantly changing, particularly with regards to rules within the Kingdom, it is not a feasible initiative.
With regards to the purchasing of tickets, Essop explained that hujjaaj should discuss the cost of tickets with the respective operatives as there should be room for negotiation.
“If an operator is charging you a very large price, then there has to be room for negotiation because that can’t all be going to the airline. You must remember that you are the pilgrim and you are purchasing [the ticket] – you have 22 accredited Hajj operators that you can go and deal with,” Essop concluded.