CAPE TOWN - The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) announced that South African Muslims planning to go on Hajj will not be allowed to do so, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Hajj is an annual pilgrimage made by Muslims to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Islam's holiest city.
Secretary-general of SAHUC, Moaaz Casoo, announced the council’s decision in a statement released on Thursday.
He said SAHUC had held discussions with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia, the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Pretoria as well as the South African Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) with regard to the 2020 Hajj during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a meeting between SAHUC and Dirco on Thursday, solutions were sought for the possibility of Hajj going ahead for South Africa's Muslim citizens, but Dirco Minister Naledi Pandor stated all of South Africa's borders remain closed as part of the Covid-19 lockdown, with the exception of international travel for those being repatriated.
“Based on the closure of borders, the curtailment of international travel and issues pertaining to Covid-19, it is with regret that we inform South African accredited hujaaj (pilgrims) that South African pilgrims will not be able to embark on the 1441/2020 Hajj,” Casoo said.
He said while the disappointment not to participate in the Hajj will be disappointing to many Muslims who have yearned to perform their pilgrimage, many of whom have been sharing relevant online hadiths – a tradition of reporting the sayings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) – that provide guidance for when travelling during an epidemic.
Hujaaj have been urged to contact their accredited Hajj operators in order to be refunded and released from any binding contracts they may have.
“We would like to inform all hujaaj that the South African Hajj operators will not be charging any administrative fees; however, where cash deposits were made, the charges associated will be the same and will be deducted.
“In addition, where any airline tickets have been acquired, the operator will refund according to the cancellation policy of the 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,” Casoo said.
The R1,500 accreditation fees hujaaj had to pay will be refunded by SAHUC.
As soon as hujaaj are released from their contracts with their Hajj operators, they are urged to email their banking details and their accreditation reference numbers to the council at [email protected].