Cii News – Qaanitah Hunter | 11 September 2012
Aziza Richards and Achmat Abrahams, a couple from Cape Town, were in the midst of their preparations for the Muslim holy pilgrimage when they were stopped in their tracks after it became known that Aziza had been for Hajj previously.
Speaking to Cii, Imraahn Ismail–Mukaddam, the Western Cape coordinator of the National Consumer Forum (NCF) said they were possession of a signed affidavit wherein the pair noted that they informed a South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) official that she had previously performed Hajj in 1992 during their application process.
According to a letter by the NCF dated 10 September 2012, SAHUC’s secretary-general, Shaheen Essop, implied that, “…Mrs. Richards and her husband lied on their application and that they therefore deserve to be treated this way. His assertion that the SAHUC employee who assisted Mrs. Richards and her husband is competent and that he believes her version over that of the Hujaaj smacks of arrogance and lack of sensitivity.”
The shock of being taken off the list came after they had paid their SAHUC fees as well as the full cost to their agents, Rasools Travel. They have also had their inoculations and have made all the necessary preparations for the journey.
A copy of the receipt, in the possession of Cii News, shows the couple made an initial payment of R10 000 and a subsequent payment of R63 000 to Rasools Travels.
They were due to leave on September 19.
Mukaddam alleged that the cancellation by SAHUC and the travel operator was illegal because there was a signed contract in place.
“The consumer’s rights in this instance are grossly violated and we believe they have significant recourse to the law,” Mukaddam added.
He said that he believed SAHUC has been operating illegitimately as a Hajj regulator and should be disbanded by government.
“They failed to function as a regulator; they failed to function in the interest of the Muslim community. We say as the friends of the Hujaaj, also as the National Consumer Forum and in my personal capacity as a Muslim, I say I am withdrawing my mandate from the organisation to act on my behalf and the behalf of all Muslims.”
The NCF letter to SAHUC appealed for a reversal of the decision immediately or face litigation which the NCF Western Cape will be assisting the couple in question with.
Mukaddam said they find the responses thus far from all the SAHUC representatives to his queries totally unacceptable.
Mukkadum said that they would additionally lay charges against SAHUC for defamation of character.
“We hope that the case can be mediated but in the interim we are investigating another case which is almost exactly the same,” he said.
SAHUC secretary general, Shaheen Essop, said that he had not seen the press release from the NCF and refrained from making a comment.
Rasools Travels, the Cape Town based travel operator, said that their hands were tied because SAHUC controlled the accreditation.
Owner, Alwie Gassant, told Cii News that according protocol they cannot take anyone who was not accredited for Hajj.
“When they came to us, we accepted them, because they were accepted by SAHUC. So we went ahead with arrangements to take them to Saudi,” Gassant said.
He said once it was detected that the lady, Aziza Richards, went previously for Hajj, SAHUC contacted the operator and noted that they were off the accreditation list.
“We can’t actually do something to take them because if we take them and SAHUC gets to know of this then we will be blacklisted and be in big problems,” Gassant said.
He said taking the couple without accreditation would be in breach of their own personal contract.
“Unfortunately we cannot do anything about this. Once SAHUC says we can’t take someone there is no way that we can take someone.”
When asked about refunding, Gassant said they will refund the couple the total amount paid by all means.
“There is no problem at all- we will give all their money back. Not a cent will be kept,” he explained.
Tags: accreditation, Achmat Abrahams, Aziza Richards, NCF, rasools travel, Sahuc