The South African Hajj and Travel Operators Association (SATHOA) met with the South African Hajj and Umrah Council regarding Saudi Arabia’s ban on Umrah. Many aspiring mutamireen have expressed concerns over their bookings and monies, after the Kingdom suspended Umrah to curb the spread of the global spread of the coronavirus.
As a result of a meeting with the Saudi hajj ministry last week it was announced that all hajj administration must also be put on hold. Sathoa chairperson Sedick Steenkamp explained that discussions and assured that regular meetings with all relevant stakeholders is taking place.
“We have to put scenarios together you know, if certain thigs does occur. Those are things we are talking about, things that will affect the hujaaj. In these uncertain times, we must make sure that we are ready if things come back to normality In Shaa Allah,” said Steenkamp.
The ‘hajj season‘ is usually three months after the month of Ramadaan, which would fall in August this year. Steenkamp emphasised that upcoming hajj has not been cancelled or put “on lockdown”, but the measures taken were merely precautionary.
He noted that Sahuc did not make this call on their own and their communication with South African citizens was as a result of communication with the Saudi authorities.
“Sometimes in terms of interpretation it could mean various things to various people. In this case Sahuc says its just on hold for the moment until we find what’s the path and what will happen in due cause.”
Steenkamp noted that they received instruction to avoid and new commitments.
“I don’t know what other countries are doing but we have already done quite a bit of finalization of contracts and so on. It is ongoing, however at this stage things are on hold in terms of the administration in the country,” said Steenkamp.
“At this stage we are not taking any money or signing any contracts.”
The spokesperson also highlighted that they are trying to ensure that hujaaj are regularly updated.
“We are talking to all our hujaaj and there’s generally an understanding of what’s going on I haven’t seen much pressure coming from hujaaj in terms of uncertain times. We need to talk consistently to the hujaaj,” he said.
However, Steenkamp noted that there may be a cost on the hujaaj, but these are also being negotiated.
“As it is, with the significant weakening of the rand, it is going to have implications. All of these things we are thinking through and (trying to) plan for. Airlines are cancelling flights, when it comes on stream we don’t know what the cost implications are going to be,” he admitted.
He added that aspiring hujaaj should be on stand-by should hajj 1441/2020 commence.
“Keep yourself ready. Make sure you’ve got your valid your passports, your yellow cards with your meningitis and yellow fever (clearance), if you need it then have a copy of your marriage certificate so when things come back to normal then we able to quickly get back on track,” advised Steenkamp.
He further encouraged hujaaj to contact the below listed numbers to clarify any uncertainty.
“We would like to make sure there are adequate places and people to speak to in terms of any uncertainty. In this day and age we need to be transparent we need to be open and share the information that’s available. I certainly don’t want to see any messages that can put doubt in the haji’s head,” he said.
SAHUC: 021 696 4433
South African Muslim Travel Association 031 303 2028
Or contact your accredited operator.