Saudis are expected to announce the cancellation of Hajj this year – or continue on a limited scale. Whatever the case, SA hujjaj would not be able to travel under lockdown rules, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.
Yusuf (65) of Fordsburg, Johannesburg, has been scanning the media each day to check if there’s any hope or miracle that would allow him to go on his dream Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah this year.
Yusuf, like 3500 others who were part of the approved SAHUC quota, will sadly NOT be able to undertake the pilgrimage under the current lockdown rules – even if Saudi authorities allow reduced numbers of hujjaj into the kingdom.
Minister Naledi Pandor of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), has put paid to any hopes that South African hujjaj would be allowed to travel to the holy land under the current lockdown rules. She indicated that the South African borders are currently closed and will not be open for International commercial travel any time soon, except for the repatriation of citizens.
This was confirmed during a meeting between South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) and DIRCO recently.
But SAHUC has promised that all Hujjaj (1441AH) affected by this unfortunate situation “will be placed into the queue according to your date and time of application and queued for Hajj 1442AH (2021)”.
Moaaz Casoo, Secretary General of SAHUC said: “Based on the closure of our borders, the curtailment of International travel and issues pertaining to COVID-19, it is with regret that we inform South African accredited Hujjaj that South African pilgrims will NOT be able to embark on the 1441 / 2020 Hajj.”
He added: “There is currently no indication as to when an announcement from the Ministry can be expected as the Ministry is currently monitoring the coronavirus effects and its recommendation is to put all arrangements for Hajj on hold. The continued increase in the number of active cases in Saudi Arabia has grown exponentially and there is concern about a second wave of the coronavirus internationally.”
Casoo said all South African accredited Hajj operators will not be charging any administrative fees – however, where cash deposits were made, the charges associated with same will be deducted. In addition, where any airline tickets have been acquired, the operator will refund according to the cancellation policy of the said airline company. Where deposits were paid into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by the operator, those parts of the refund will follow once funds are received from the Saudi counterparts.
He said SAHUC will refund the R1500 accreditation fee to all Hujjaj. Once you have been released from your contract with the Hajj Operator, please send your banking details along with your accreditation reference number to email@example.com.
Meanwhile, Saudi officials are reportedly considering cancelling this 2020 Hajj season for the first time.
According to an unnamed senior Saudi official quoted by the UK’s Financial Times, “the case has been carefully studied and various scenarios are being considered.”
“A formal decision will be taken within a week,” the official added.
A separate report, from Reuters, has reported that Saudi officials are also considering drastically cutting back on the number of pilgrims allowed to enter the kingdom, with possible restrictions including a ban on elderly pilgrims and stringent health checks.
“With strict procedures, authorities think it may be possible to allow in up to 20 percent of each country’s regular quota of pilgrims,” the report added.
Officials in a number of countries – including Singapore and Indonesia – have said that their citizens would not participate in this year’s Hajj, while India’s Hajj committee has said that there is “little chance” of the pilgrimage occurring.
To date, there have been over 123,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country, including 932 deaths.
Meanwhile, Yusuf, when told the sad news, took it in his stride. “Allah calls one to his home at the time of his choosing. This is not MY time…perhaps MY calling may come next year, InshaAllah”, he said wistfully.