By Annisa Essack
On Monday, 4 April 2022, the South African Muslim Travel Operators Association issued a statement on their meeting with The Ministry of Haj and South African Government officials.
The statement explained the two systems utilised by the Saudi E-Haj system for Muslim and Non-Muslim countries.
SAMTOA says it was informed whilst several of its members witnessed that South Africa was included as part of the Muslim country system in the E-Haj administration. After discussions with the South African Government, they believed it was necessary to change this to align with the world standards, i.e., correcting the error of having South Africa listed as a Muslim country instead of a non-Muslim one. The correction, according to SAMTOA, is that the correct quota allocation for South Africa would be improved and in line with non-Muslim countries.
On 24 November 2021, the South African government held a public meeting. SAMTOA presented and concluded that the current administration of Hajj logistics in South Africa is unconstitutional, in contravention of certain of our laws and not in line with world standards set by the organisation of Islamic Coordination.
The matter is currently under investigation by The Cultural, Religious & Linguistic Rights Commission (CRL), as requested by the Department of International Relations (DIRCO) has asked for an investigation into the matter. DIRCO & the CRL have not yet decided on Hajj quotas and the responsibility for Hajj 2022 administration; however, the CRL has indicated that the Hajj matter is not a human rights issue but a legal and constitutional one.
SAMTOA also alleges that the dissemination of information and advertising for Hajj operator status was not only premature but presumptuous. Having reviewed documents circulating for Hajj operator status, it was clear that the document is drawn up to exclude almost all current legal, skilled, and experienced operators.
The association further advised the public and service providers to exercise caution when dealing with Hajj 2022 matters, and SAMTOA will communicate once more information is made available.
Radio Islam International contacted SAMTOA’s Chairperson, Sedick Steenkamp, to clarify the mentioned issues but could not speak to him due to technical difficulty. He was also offered the option to respond to questions posed to him via audio, but to date, none was received.
The station also contacted the President of SAHUC, Shaheen Essop, who provided SAHUC’s stance on the issues contained in the statement by SAMTOA. Listen to the podcast here.
On 9 April 2022, after two years of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah of Saudi Arabia released a statement on Saturday, announcing that it had raised the number of Hajj pilgrims from inside and outside the kingdom to 1 million in 2022.
Hajj is open to those under 65 years of age who have received approved COVID-19 vaccinations by the Saudi Ministry of Health. Pilgrims from abroad will be required to submit a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours from departure; it also urges visitors to comply with the health measures.
Due to the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has limited the Hajj to domestic pilgrims for the past two years. A total of 60,000 pilgrims performed Hajj last year, compared to around 2.5 million in 2019.