Home PodcastJulie Alli Transforming Hajj and Umrah: MCHU seeks stakeholder input

Transforming Hajj and Umrah: MCHU seeks stakeholder input

by Luqmaan Rawat
The MCHU is putting the Hajj and Umrah process under review in order to create a better experience for all Photo Pexels 

South Africa – In recent years, South Africans have raised concerns and complaints regarding the management of Hajj and Umrah. Due to this, the Ministerial Committee on the Efficient Management of the Annual Hajj and Umrah Pilgrimages (MCHU) was formed to conduct a comprehensive review, address these concerns, and improve the management of these significant religious events.

The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) was established 28 years ago with the aim of addressing the various challenges associated with the pilgrimage to Makkah. While considerable progress has been made since its formation, recurring complaints have prompted the need for a review. The Ministerial Committee seeks to understand the basis of these complaints, evaluate the effectiveness of current practices, and identify areas for improvement, explained Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, Ministerial Committee Chairperson.

“As we approach the 30th year of the establishment of SAHUC, we are having a recurrence of complaints about how the Hajj is operated. It’s a variety of complaints that people have had. We’re calling it a review that is being done by the Ministerial Committee on the Efficient Management of Hajj and Umrah in order to see what is working, what is not working, what is the basis of the complaints that may be out in the public domain, what can be improved and how do we move forward.”


The key issues to address 

According to Rasool the review will focus on several crucial aspects related to the management of Hajj and Umrah from South Africa. These include the government’s role, the evolving practices, rising costs as well as quota management.

“We need to discuss a few things. Firstly, does the government’s hands off role and giving it to SAHUC, is that still important or is there a jurisdictional role for SAHUC? The second one is that there are impending changes in the way in which the Hajj is administered and particularly eHajj. We need to see whether we will be ready for that eventuality. Thirdly, we have a rising cost in Hajj which creates a scarcity and therefore we need to see what financial arrangements can be made to bring down costs. Fourthly, we also need to make sure that we can address the issue of the quota. The quota can only be addressed if there is some kind of demographic research that is done about the number of Muslims, the distribution of Muslims and how the Muslim community has not only grown but diversified so that no one is left behind.”


The role of SAHUC and assisted eHajj

Despite potential changes in administrative practices, the Ministerial Committee acknowledges the importance of SAHUC’s continued involvement. An assisted eHajj program is being considered to strike a balance between operator-driven processes and the need for an organisation like SAHUC to provide support and guidance to South African pilgrims. Currently the UK and the US are having problems with the eHajj system.

“We want to make sure that we don’t fall into the same problem especially given the situation in South Africa where not everyone will be familiar with the possibilities of eHajj. I want to say that some of the members of the committee will be engaging the Saudi authorities in the coming coming weeks and we will be looking at the issue of the eHajj but we also make it very clear to them that that we may need an assisted form of Hajj from South Africa and not completely switch to an operator driven one with eHajj as the condition foregoing on Hajj.”

This would ensure a smooth transition while preserving the valuable role SAHUC has played thus far.

SMread: First-Time Pilgrims’ Quest for Spiritual Fulfilment in Makkah


Engaging stakeholders and gathering input on the Hajj and Umrah process

The Ministerial Committee has undertaken extensive consultations with key stakeholders in the Hajj and Umrah sector. These consultations include meetings with SAHUC, the Saudi embassy, the South African Muslim Travel Operators Association (Samtoa), and Hajj Watch—an organisation dedicated to safeguarding the welfare of South African pilgrims.

“We have done a survey with everyone. I think sometimes they do think amongst themselves that they are far away from each other. Whereas in fact us having listened to everyone, people are closer than they think. Secondly, we’ve received valuable input from them. No one disputes the need for a body. They just need to know what’s the legal foundation of that body. What’s the role of the government? What are the ways in which we can streamline the problem areas and maximise the strengths.”


Financial considerations and profit margins when it come to Hajj

The financial aspect of Hajj and Umrah operations is a crucial factor that requires thorough investigation. While the precise profit margins of Hajj operators in South Africa are yet to be determined, the review aims to ensure that the pilgrimage remains accessible and affordable for all, including ordinary individuals.

“At this point it appears that we are probably dealing with a R300 million industry in South Africa alone given the number of hujjaj that go and the cost per Haji that goes. What the margin of profit is [and other factors], we need to work out that and we are gathering a team of financial experts that can help us, but it’s premature to say that someone is making a killing in a sense of profits. We are very clear that part of what we need to do is to make the Hajj affordable for very ordinary people otherwise the Hajj may turn out to be an elite experience by those who can afford it. Whereas we want everyone who is called to be able to afford it.”

To make it more affordable, the costs need to be driven down. In this aspect, the financial experts will be crucial.

Individuals and organisations, especially hujjaj, are invited to submit written submissions and testimonies on matters related to the management of Hajj. Submissions should be concise and not exceed 2000 words. All communications should be addressed to hajjcomm@dirco.gov.za and must be sent on or before 31 July 2023.

The review conducted by the Ministerial Committee on the Efficient Management of Hajj and Umrah in South Africa highlights the commitment to improving the pilgrimage experience for South African Muslims. With inputs from stakeholders, public hearings, and a thorough analysis of existing challenges, the committee seeks to implement measures that ensure efficient, affordable, and well-regulated Hajj and Umrah operations in the country.


Ebrahim Rasool spoke to Julie Alli who touched upon crucial aspects such as the financial burden of Hajj, the upcoming meeting with the Saudi government, and the significance of evidence-based recommendations and public input in shaping a more efficient pilgrimage experience. Listen to the conversation here:

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