There will be no increase in South Africa’s hajj quota for 2016 after the Saudi Ministry of Hajj announced that quota cuts are to continue until construction work in the Kingdom has been completed.
There were initial suggestions that the country could have 20% of its original quota restored for the coming year, which would have allowed for the accreditation of an additional 500 pilgrims. This would have gone some way in reducing the backlog of locals currently awaiting accreditation.
South Africa is currently allowed a maximum 2000 pilgrims during hajj season each year.
Sahuc president, Shaheen Essop has attributed the U-turn on two fatal incidents that occurred in the Kingdom last year; a crane collapse in Makkah prior to the pilgrimage, as well as a massive stampede in Mina a few days later. This has spurred Saudi authorities to delay quota increases until expansion projects in the haram are complete.
“Having visited the Kingdom in November and just looking around the haram in Makkah, it still looks as if there is still one-and-a-half to two years of work still left to complete whatever is necessary,” Essop suggested, adding that construction was seemingly behind schedule.
Initial plans had targeted a completion of the first phase of construction by this year however that is now unlikely to be met.
“Given the fact that we’ve had that tragic accident with the crane falling over, they are going to be extra careful now to ensure that accidents of that nature don’t occur in the future,” he declared.
Essop said his biggest concern for the coming year was a potential price hike in the cost of hajj, the result of a significant increase in the rand/dollar exchange rate. That in turn has put the rand at R4.30 to the Saudi riyal.
“Two weeks ago the Saudi government brought out their budget and they reduced subsidies on fuel and increase fuel costs by 70%. Services on the back of that will go up accordingly,” he said, noting that this could effectively price many South African’s out of travelling to the Kingdom.
South Africa currently has a 26 000 backlog of first time hujaaj. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)