The South African Hajj and Umrah council said that while Saudi authorities have not issued directives regarding Hajj 1442, their plans for South Africa’s participation has been put on hold. Despite Covid-19 restrictions being eased across many countries globally, international hujaaj including South African’s are unsure about the hajj season this year.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast, SAHUC’s president Shaheen Essop said that no communication was received for the upcoming hajj season to date.
”The last correspondence received from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was last year pre-hajj, where they basically explained that hajj would not take place for any external hujaaj,” said Essop.
He assured the public that the body is in constant contact with the relevant authorities on a bi-weekly basis. According to Essop, South Africans have no option but to wait. As recipients of the quota, the rules and regulations by the Hajj ministry is mandatory for the hajj.
For many the invitation of hajj comes with much excitement and planning, however due to the pandemic many are anxious as the month of Ramadan draws nearer and still no clarity on the pilgrimage. Essop explained that patience needs to be exercised during this time.
“We must be patient in this regard, whilst I understand, and we are very concerned about the fact that time is of the essence, remember it is not only us, but many around the world. We speak to those in the UK, Malaysia, everyone is concerned about the delay that is currently taking place,” added Essop.
Some would recall when the hajj was cancelled last year, SAHUC disaccredited hujaaj and names were put back into the que according to the date and time they had registered for the hajj, according to Essop, this was done in order to allow no prejudice in the future and to ensure total transparency .
“In order to maintain a fair, transparent and equitable process, we have to go according to our date and time priority,” said Essop
Last week the ministry also stated that hujaaj wishing to perform the hajj would have to comply with the vaccine protocol of the health ministry, whereby the vaccine would be mandatory for all hujaaj. The vaccine program in South Africa has gotten off to a slow start and a concern amongst South Africans is not being able to perform hajj due to the non-availability of the vaccine. Essop said they have not received any notification as to whether pilgrims would be given preference for the vaccine.
”I will allude to something that I am privy to, The South African Society for Travel Medicine has written to the Government and asked not only from the perspective of pilgrims, but from businessman who want to travel abroad which is meaningful to the economics of the country– there was not even a receipt of that communication,” concluded Essop.
Regarding hajj operators who are still owing refunds, Essop said that internal disciplinary processes were underway and was hopeful to see an outcome sooner rather than later.