Grateful, yet disapointed PDF Print E-mail

While it was grateful for the additional haj quota of 500, the South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) has expressed its disappointment in the fact that the added quota will only meet the need of 10% of those who are still waiting in the queue to be accredited. The additonal quota - which was confirmed on Saturday - means that South Africa will only be able to send 3,000 pilgrims for haj this year, making it the lowest turnout in decades. Before the implementation of the haj quota system an average of 7,000 - 10,000 South African performed haj annually.

"It is with regret that we inform the public that the quota for haj 2011 has been increased by Saudi haj authorities by 500 spaces only. While we acknowledge the disappointment experienced in the public domain, in haj circles and within Sahuc, we must be grateful for every extra place we are granted," Sahuc secretary general, Shaheen Essop, told VOC's Sunday Live just after 9am.

The confirmation of the additional quota came as Saudi officials returned to work this weekend after the Eidul Fitr holiday. As such, Essop said, Sahuc has not been able to gain any further information on what the reasoning was behind the small number that was granted for South Africa. Earlier this year, Sahuc had applied for a SA quota of 7,500 which is in line with the number of applicants annually on the Sahuc haj registry.

"This figure was reiterated again in Ramadan when we met with haj authorities and the SA diplomatic core in the Kingdom to make further representations for the added quota." Asked if SA could possibly be penalised because of the 500 - 1,200 South Africans who performed haj last year outside of the SA quota, Essop said: "Thus far, we have been given no details on the reasoning behind this figure and it is difficult to speculate. Maybe other countries were deemed to be more needy... We would prefer to wait on further details rather than speculate."

However, he confirmed that one of the factors that might have counted in SA's disfavour was the fact that when its haj quota was doubled 2 - 3 years ago, South Africa was unable to fill the full quota of 5,000, ending 90 short. Sources told VOC that this allowed in more repeat hujjaj that had been anticipated, something haj authorities frown upon. According to the head of the Muassasah, Sheik Abdul Wahhab Saifuddin, haj authorities considered all the factors around a country before making a recommendation to the Saudi Royal Diwan for an added quota.

Essop reported that Sahuc has already taken steps to obtain greater clarity on the issue since it would have a major impact on next year's quota. "This is the smallest quota we have been afforded, certainly since I have been involved in Sahuc. We have already begun with urgent discussions with our diplomatic core in the Kingdom, as well as within Sahuc on Saturday to probe this issue. While we must accept the situation for this year, we must raise our disappointment about the small number that has been received and we make dua that Allah (SWT) makes it easy for everyone."
Time constraints

Meanwhile, Sahuc will publish the next list of people who have been accredited later on Sunday. SMSes will also be sent directly to those who had been accredited, but they will have only 24 hours within which to accept their accreditation. "Due to the fact that we do not have the luxury of time, hujjaj who receive notification that they have been accredited, must accept or decline their accreditation as speedily as possible. The Sahuc board decided on a 24 hour turnaround time and if they are serious about going on haj this year, hujjaj must do their best to comply," he urged.

They can also visit to accept or reject the accreditation once the list has been published online. The sooner they do so, including those who cannot for some reason accept the accreditation, the more time it gives others behind them in the queue to fill the space. Essop said he hoped pilgrims would move as swiftly as possible so that Sahuc can make inroads on the sizeable backlog among those waiting to be accredited.

"Haj packages have been on offer since early in the year and if you had applied on the system, by now you should have made preliminary arrangements, including with the operator of your choice by choosing a package and paying a deposit. Keep in mind that if you had paid a deposit and was not accredited, you are entitled to a full refund," he reiterated.

"We urge hujjaj to understand the imperatives on time. The sooner we get the list filled, the sooner haj operators can close their portals and confirm their contracts (in the Kingdom), since operators have indicated that the first haj flights will depart from SA by 26 - 27 October. So that is cutting it very close," Essop said.

Article courtesy: VOC (Munadia Karaan)