Haj: SA wants bigger quota
The South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) has confirmed that it was among the 80 countries to have applied to the Saudi Haj Ministry for an increased haj quota in 2012. Last year just over 3,100 South African performed haj, which is the smallest number of local pilgrims in almost two decades. “South Africa has indeed made a request for an increased quota via our diplomatic corpse and we believe much more must be done to push for a bigger quota,” said Sahuc secretary general, Shaheen Essop.
To this end, Sahuc has asked for a meeting with the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) to map out a plan. “However, the new Minister of Haj has reiterated that space is always, not only in Makkah, but at the holy places. As such, a country like Sri Lanka who received a similar size quota as RSA of between 4,500 – 5,000 was cut down to 2,800. While it is very difficult to predict what to to expect for 2-12, we are committed to doing what we can to ensure SA gets a bigger quota,” Essop said.
For now, Sahuc was waiting for its formal invitation from the Kingdom for the signing of the 2012 haj protocols. Essop said they expected the protocol signing to be concluded by the end of March which paves the way for the accreditation of this year’s haj operators. This in turn, kickstarts the accreditation of hujjaj who will be eligible to perform haj this year.
Meanwhile, the attention moves to the United Kingdom from 10 – 12 February where the World Haj and Umrah Conference is set to take place. Sahuc will also be present at the conference, among other local stakeholders. “Since this is the first such conference, it is hard to know what to expect, but we are informed that stakeholders from KSA will be in attendance, along with representatives from minority Muslim countries for whom this will be a platform.”
He said while at first it appears to be a marketing drive, the conference has the potential to deliver a lot more on haj service delivery, governance and administration. “Among others, Malaysia’s Tabong Haji will deliver the keynote address and there will be meetings with organisations wehre ideas will be exchanged. As minority Muslim countries this is a good opportunity to push for better structures and delivery.”