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South African pilgrims prepare for hajj amidst tightened visa controls

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By Ragheema Mclean

Muslim pilgrims are arriving in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Makkah as the annual Hajj pilgrimage returns to its monumental scale.

This year, around 2,500 South African pilgrims are set to embark on this spiritual journey.

Speaking on VOC Breakfast South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) Secretary-General Hafiz Hassan Choonara provided an update on preparations:

“All preparations for Hajj start nine months before the days of Hajj in terms of negotiations, discussions, and deliberations. Alhamdulillah, we’ve reached the pinnacle of our efforts, and everything is in place logistically.”

Choonara confirmed that the camps in Minah and Arafah have been handed over to the respective travel operators.

“Tomorrow morning, Insha Allah, we’ll hear the takbir and see the beautiful sight of millions of pilgrims walking towards Minah.”

He emphasized the active engagement on social media, sharing updates and images of the camps and resources provided for the five days of Hajj.

Choonara also assured that previous concerns from pilgrims have been addressed through numerous meetings, aiming to prevent the same issues this year.

“In Arafah, the camp is compound-like with beautiful facilities,” he noted.

“We are taking extra care of privacy, providing shade, netting, and ice buckets to enhance comfort. There are separate toilets for men and women, with accommodations for all ages. We’ve also ensured regular cleaning of the toilets to maintain hygiene for our pilgrims.”

Meanwhile, a social media post highlighted the refusal of entry to Saudi Arabia for two South African pilgrims due to fraudulent Hajj “Mujamala” visas issued by non-accredited operators.

Commenting on the matter, Choonara said that Saudi authorities have been strict this year to prevent individuals from performing Hajj without accredited visas.

“These individuals had Mujamala (courtesy) visas from the Saudi Embassy, which were fraudulently issued by a non-accredited Hajj operator from Johannesburg,” he said.

He confirmed that these visas were not issued by SAHUC and were not registered in the system, leading to the pilgrims being sent back to South Africa.

“Many pilgrims worldwide have been stopped at various entry points and returned to their countries or denied entry due to the lack of proper accreditation. The strict measures are to ensure smooth processes for all pilgrims.”

VOC News

Photo: Pexels


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