From the news desk

Sathoa taking action against operator

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The South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) and South African Travel and Haj Operators Association (Sathoa) have concluded investigations into the Boland Haj Jamaah, after reports that 20 hujaaj were experiencing problems with the operator. The issue stems from the Saudi Ministry of Haj’s regulations on the minimum amount of pilgrims operators were expected to take on haj. As the operator failed to meet those requirements, it was forced to merge with another. However, reports suggest that although the operator had received the full payments from the pilgrims, those monies were yet to be paid to the partnering entity, Booleys Haj and Umrah, based in Gauteng.

According to Sathoa chairperson, Sedick Steenkamp, his organization had been in contact with the operator in question, as well as the affected hujaaj. Having addressed the issue with both parties, he noted that Sathoa had just about completed its investigation.

“Having been made aware of the issue nearly two weeks ago, Sathoa met with the affected hujaaj to discuss the problem, with the operator also being summoned to attend the meeting,” he said.

Steenkamp said that during the meeting, the operator made certain promises to the hujaaj, which had yet to be honoured. As a result, legal action was being initiated against him.

But Ebrahim Jooste, the operator in question, denied that he was being investigated. Speaking to VOC News this week, he said “the matter had been sorted”. Jooste declined to grant VOC News a full interview, but reassured the issue was being dealt with.

“There is no problem. As far as I am concerned, everything has been paid. I have spoken to hujaaj and they are happy,” he said.

Steenkamp said this was the first time, from a haj perspective, that an issue of this nature had arisen. He also noted that they had never experienced any problems with the Boland Hajj Jamaah in previous years.

“This is the first time this sort of thing has happened to this operator, we haven’t had problems for all these years that he has been operating. It comes as a surprise to all of us,” he said.

Scheduled to depart on Monday 1st September, concerns have been raised that the 20 hujaaj may now be left behind. But Steenkamp insisted Sathoa were working tirelessly to ensure this was not the case.

“We have asked our fraternity to assist, and alhamdulillah we are working on that at the moment,” he said.

Whilst not directly calling on the community to assist with the financial aspect of the hujaaj’s trip, he said any assistance would be welcome.

Anyone looking to assist the affected hujaaj may contact the Sahuc Western Cape offices or the Sathoa offices directly.

On a different note: Sahuc said there are approximately 30 passports which have not been processed with visas. Due to the glitch in the new system implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, certain passports are not scanning through the system.

In a press statement on Friday, Sahuc said the matter is “not in their control” or any of the haj operators or the Embassy in Pretoria. However, Sahuc says it is continuing to liaise with the Ministry of Haj who in turn are liaising with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia to assist in resolving the matter urgently.VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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