Two weeks after the first list accrediting 2,500 South African hujjaj to perform the pilgrimage this year was published, a second filler list of 503 was published on Saturday. According to Shaheen Essop, secretary general of the South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc), the second list went live just after 2pm on Saturday.
“The 503 names on this filler list was made possible after others who were accredited two weeks ago, cancelled their accreditation,” Essop told VOC’s Sunday Live, adding that while some hujjaj deferred their accreditation to another year, others cancelled theirs outright. Accreditation is based on meeting the criteria – which gives preference to first time hujjaj – and the date and time of registration. Where the last date of registration on the first list was November 2011, Essop said the filler list concluded with people who registered as late as January 2012.
But where hujjaj who were accredited two weeks ago had until Friday to accept or decline their accreditation and now have until 5 April to choose the operator of their choice, the newly accredited hujjaj have until the same date to do both. All accredited hujjaj will then have until 20 April – and not 30 April as has been reported earlier – to finalise their haj contracts with operators.
“The newly accredited hujjaj have 12 – 13 days to accept or decline accreditation and choose an operator in the same period. We believe that there is sufficient time for them to do so. The reason why the hujjaj on the first accreditation list had a bit more time (to accept or decline) was because the operators were not ready (at the original deadline set for them last Monday),” Essop said.
As of Saturday afternoon, hujjaj who have accepted their accreditation are able to go back onto Sahuc’s website at www.sahuchajjregistry.org.za to choose the operator of their choice from among 28 of the 32 accredited operators who forwarded their packages to Sahuc by Wednesday evening. Essop said the remaining four accredited operators had until 3 April to forward their packages to Sahuc. “But the longer they wait, the more they prejudice the other operators whose packages are already online,” he warned.
While the newly accredited hujjaj on the filler list were immediately notified on Saturday by sms this weekend, Sahuc was not leaving anything to chance. “Some of them have already begun to respond, but at the same time, we have also begun calling them to find out if they are accepting the accreditation. As they cancel, we are already filling those spaces. This will prevent a lengthy accreditation process, unless we get an additional quota,” he said.
As for the haj haj protocols, Essop confirmed that it has yet to be signed. “We are still waiting for that process to unfold. We have seen that the new Saudi Haj Minister is using a new approach with smaller countries by forwarding the haj protocols via the Saudi embassies in those countries. We have still not received South Africa’s, but we do not expect anything untoward in it when it does come for thus far, the protocols have been fairly static.”
For now, Essop had one message to accredited hujjaj: “The sooner you accept your accreditation and choose your operator, the better for you. Given the devaluation of the Rand with it expected to head north of R9.50 during the course of the year, packages will become more expensive the later it gets. But if you confirm your package, the burden of the difference (on the exchange) is no longer on you, but on the operator,” he advised.
On a different note, Saudi authorities reported that they expected a record number of umrah pilgrims this year, up by half a million to an expected six million. In response, Essop confirmed that there were a strong flow of South African mu’tamireen this week, heading to perform umrah over the Easter holidays with international flights from Johannesburg this week being fully packed with pilgrims. “The onset of the school holidays is another reason for the increased numbers,” he related. “However, there is still a great deal of construction going on in the Kingdom, so we urge our mu’tamireen to be cautious.” VOC
Last modified onSunday, 24 March 2013 10:50