The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) kicked off with the Hajj 2019/1440 Roadshow in Cape Town this past weekend.
The annual Hajj awareness programme attended by more than 500 people occurred at Athlone Civic Centre on Saturday between 10:30 and 13:00.
The short programme allowed locals to interact with SAHUC officials and accredited Hajj and Umrah agencies.
Agencies who promoted their packages at the event included Rasool Travels, Fit for Hajj, Sure Mirage Travels, Yasmine’s Travel, and Tours, Shaheed Hajj Jamaah, and Khidmatul Awaam Pilgrimage Services, among others.
First-time applicants and the broader Muslim community were also given the opportunity to ask relevant questions pertaining to traveling for both Hajj and Umrah.
Earlier this year, SAHUC announced the first accreditation list for Hajj 2019, along with the names of 23 accredited agencies in South Africa.
As many accepted applicants prepare to spend their money on a spiritual journey of a lifetime, many are still skeptical about the cost of traveling and who they should trust when it comes to travel agencies.
Hajj operators at the roadshow presented packages starting at R39 000 to over R70 000 per person.
Last year, TV talk show host Faizal Sayed, during a live recording on The Faizal Sayed Show, tackled the issue of fraud occurring in the Hajj and Umrah industry.
The TV show that included SAHUC and other agencies grabbed the attention of Muslims across the country and saw many viewers coming forward to share their stories.
Muslim travelers have lost thousands of Rands over the past few years, due to dishonest agencies, while others still struggle to raise the amount needed, to endure the spiritual journey.
While certain agencies were exposed on the show for dealing with fraudulent activities and feeding off the poor and frail, Sayed this year, want in-depth details of why the cost of Hajj is pricey.
Sayed attended SAHUC’S roadshow on Saturday with the hopes of answering his questions.
“I attended this road show for a number of reasons that include me trying to understand why the cost for Hajj and Umrah is quite pricey.
“I am not here to accuse anyone of robbing people, but my intentions are to unpack the cost, as a starting point.
“I want to understand, that if a package is R70 000 per person, what does it constitute?
“Is it the Saudi Arabian authorities that are adding on cost, is it the airlines that are exorbitant, or is it our local agencies that are exorbitant? Hajj should be affordable.
“But if people say that this is what the cost is, then I accept it. But I think, for once in our lives, we need to put to bed the issue of prices that people are talking.”
He stressed that South Africans need to think, if there are prices that are a certain way, then how are they able to dismantle that those prices are in fact what it is.
“A commission of inquiry needs to look at this so that we can put to bed this discussion. Many people are also questioning the R1500 that is payable to SAHUC when making application for Hajj.”
SAHUC is a non-profit organisation formed for the purpose of overseeing the wellbeing and interests of SA pilgrims who undertake Hajj and Umrah.
As a response to Sayed, Shaykh Riaad Fataar, a representative of SAHUC said, there are many things that need to be covered when it comes to taking on the spiritual journey.
“When people get to Saudi Arabia, and if they want something to be presented in a professional manner, which includes being looked after, then there are many things that need to be covered,” he explained.
He said, unlike other countries, South Africans don’t have a fixed place where they can go to and therefore bookings with hotels located in the holy city needs to be arranged in advance, among others.
“There are many costs that go into it, but rest assured that the money they pay is not going anywhere else, and definitely not into the pockets of SAHUC members.
“There is a main goal that lies ahead, and that is that SAHUC is mainly made up of volunteers, who are there to move to a position that SAHUC is one day, an organisation that can employ people. We hope to move in that direction soon.”
Fataar who is new at SAHUC, said as many travelers have questions on similar matters, he has too.
“I like asking questions regarding SAHUC and even thou I am new at this organisation, I will continue asking because these are questions that many travelers ask, and that I would need to answer.
“There is a variance in prices when it comes to operators and I can’t discuss something I can’t explain. It is an open business situation and people have the right to go around and see who is the best, in terms of what they find themselves in.
“With regards to accounts, the treasurer of SAHUC would be able to give a more detailed explanation when it comes to this.”
He says each organisation that is attached to SAHUC comes from communities across the country.
“I have in many occasions asked people to come forward and work with SAHUC to tackle issues that are there.
“There has to be a group of people that are going to take things up, and this is the role that SAHUC is playing.
“The community can inquiry at the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) as a start, and from there it can be taken up with SAHUC. In this way, the community will also be involved.”
As Fataar urged the Muslim community to get involved, he added another matter that needs to be investigated, is the Dollar and Rand exchange to see where and how it comes into play in the Hajj and Umrah industry.
See live coverage of the SAHUC Roadshow, below.
For more information, visit SAHUC Hajj on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Aishah Cassiem (Deen Times)