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Saudi to pay SA pilgrims over R14.5 million compensation

Saudi to pay SA pilgrims over R14.5 million compensation

The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) has announced that the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah together with the service provider, have agreed to pay over 3 million Saudi riyal (SAR), roughly R14.5 million, to 3 500 pilgrims in the country who participated in the 2023 pilgrimage.

The Saudis were compensating the local pilgrims due to poor and inadequate service delivery they received at the Hajj.

The Sahuc board said the pilgrims would be partially refunded for their five-day stay in the form of an ex-gratia payment due to the poor service they received, including the theft of their food and water shortages.

Sahuc president Moaz Casoo made these remarks during a press conference on Friday at the Suleiman Nana Memorial Hall, in Brixton, Joburg.

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Sahuc board members, Saudi Embassy representative Sultan Al Harbi, and the head of Hajj mission, Ismail Kholvadia, attended the press conference.

Casoo said that South African pilgrims endured hardships during the five days of Hajj, in 2023, which was held at Mecca in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia.

According to Islam, Mecca is the holiest city, drawing millions of Muslims annually for the Hajj pilgrimage, with entry restricted exclusively to Muslims.

Hajj, one of Islam’s five pillars, mandates that all physically and financially capable Muslims undertake this pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. For pilgrims, it represents a deeply spiritual journey that purges sins, fosters a closer connection with God, and emphasises unity among Muslims.

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Pilgrims commence their journey by entering a state of spiritual purity called “ihram”.

Women abstain from makeup and perfume, covering their hair, while men change into seamless terry cloth robes.

These garments must be free of stitching, a regulation aimed at fostering unity among pilgrims regardless of their financial status. While in the state of ihram, pilgrims are prohibited from cutting their hair, trimming their nails, or engaging in sexual intercourse.

They are also expected to refrain from arguing or fighting, although the challenges of the journey, including heat, crowds, and physical exertion, can test people’s patience.

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While attending the Hajj during the camp last year, Casoo said they experienced challenges such as insufficient security, which allowed pilgrims from other countries to roam around, and their items were stolen.

“They took our food, drinks, and used our ablution facilities, which resulted in them being blocked and we had no services to the facilities and they were not accessible for disabled people.

“We had no water for over two hours as there was not enough water provision, air conditioners not working,” Casoo said.

He said that they raised concerns with the appropriate ministry in Saudi Arabia.

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“Because the cost is exorbitant due to the weaker Rand from South Africa, and we have to make sure that we cover our South Africans pilgrims wherever possible.”

“All the issues and challenges that were experienced in 2023, the ministry has rectified them, to ensure that we have a smooth process next season in 2024.”

Casoo said the SAR 3 million will be paid to the 3 500 pilgrims in the country who were affected during the 2023 Hajj season.

-IOL

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