Despite what has been widely described as the most successful haj in recent memory, some pilgrims are likely to still bare personal grievances with the delivery of services from their respective operators. As a result, the South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) has announced the opening of its annual complaints process for Haj 1435, which will run between the 1st and 15th November.
All complaints are expected to be submitted in writing to Sahuc, who will follow the appropriate processes to address the pilgrim’s complaints.
Despite an overwhelming number of positive messages from this year’s group of hujjaj, Sahuc president, Shaheen Essop, said they could not expect all pilgrims to be 100% satisfied with the services they had received. As a result, the haj and umrah body would be designating special complaints committees in various regions across the country.
“We expect that we will receive complaints, and we’ve given them from the 1st November up until the 15th November for any complaints to reach Sahuc in writing. This must be accompanied by the necessary documentation and contracting,” he said.
All complaints will be expected to fully detail the nature of the individual’s grievance. The complaints can range anywhere from service delivery and contractual issues with the tour operator, to issues with Sahuc or its designated haj mission. This would be aimed at helping the body improve operations for next year’s pilgrimage.
The process itself will feature independent members of the legal fraternity, who will chair and oversee proceedings. Sahuc will attempt to mediate with the aggrieved party and the accused to try and bring about a solution. Should the issue not be resolved, Sahuc will allow the respective parties to enter an arbitration process.
“Prior to that arbitration starting, we will ask each of the parties to sign a document saying they accept the final verdict of the arbitrator,” he noted.
“Should the aggrieved party feel this is not the way to go, they will be told that they will need to proceed through a civil process instead.”
According to Essop, there would be stringent measures taken against any operator found guilty of breaching its code of conduct. This included leveling chargers against the operator from an internal perspective. Depending on the severity of the case, such charges could lead to anything from a fine, a suspended sentence, or even blacklisting from the accreditations process.
He stressed that it was vital for Sahuc to conduct the complaints process as early as possible, which would allow them to immediately switch focus to proceedings for next year’s haj.
“If we conclude this complaints process, simultaneously we are running our haj operator accreditation process. So if an operator is involved in a complaint or an arbitrary process, he or she may not be eligible for accreditation,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)