What is this world coming to …………
11 Hajj tour operators probed in scam
Moegsien Bucks - The Cape imam allegedly at the centre of the Hajj visa scandal. The Daily Voice can reveal that Imam Yusuf Pandy and 11 Hajj tour operators are now being investigated in connection with the scam. Up to 1 000 Cape Muslims have lost around R33 million in the Mecca rip-off.
Imam Pandy – from Al Anwar operators – flew to Mecca on Thursday, leaving behind a trail of angry pilgrims and unanswered questions. It is alleged Al Anwar wrongfully obtained visas from a neighbouring state and sold them off at R3 000 each to unsuspecting South African pilgrims.
These hujjaaj also forked out an average of R30 000 on packages to visit the holy city. The Daily Voice managed to track down Imam Pandy before he boarded his Saudi-bound plane. “People are spreading a lot of lies about me and I’m going to sue them. I’m a spiritual leader and not a director,” he claims. “Go speak to Al Anwar.”
Despite this, the imam earlier publicly apologised on local radio for his role in the scandal. Several Cape Muslims Thursday night claimed they were robbed of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mecca as a result of Al Anwar’s “bad dealings”. Another Cape Flats tour operator – Faizal Moos from Al-Sabireen – has also been implicated in the Hajj scam. He refused to respond to queries from this newspaper on Thursday night. “I will call you at the time when I’m ready to speak to the media,” he told the Daily Voice. Moos admitted earlier this week that he tried to obtain 500 visas via a contact in Saudi Arabia’s Hajj Ministry, but claimed these were blocked at the last minute.
The scandal has caused widespread dismay among the Cape’s massive Muslim community. The Daily Voice has also learned no fewer than 11 operators have been linked to the scandal. All of these are accredited operators from the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc). Sahuc spokesman Shaheen Essop Thursday night refused to give any details about their probe into the matter. “We are investigating a number of operators, but we cannot identify them at this stage. These operators have violated Sahuc’s code of conduct,” says Essop. “I’m busy consulting with our legal team to prepare for an internal hearing.” Essop said Sahuc, the Saudi embassy in Pretoria and the Hajj Ministry are all working together on the investigation.
“We need to determine the extent of the scam and the damage it caused,” he says. “It is too early to make any speculation. But if the investigation reveals that a member of the Hajj Ministry in the Kingdom is involved, it could have widespread implications.”
However, Imraahn Mukaddam – the spokesperson of the newly-formed group, Friends of the Hujjaj (FotH), last night called for Sahuc to be scrapped. He confirmed FotH has evidence that reveals 11 operators accredited by Sahuc are part of the visa scam. Muslim groups on Thursday night called on the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) to intervene and take control of the entire Hajj industry. However, repeated calls to MJC president, Moulana Igsaan Hendricks, went unanswered on Thursday night. No one at the MJC has been prepared to go on record since news of the scandal first broke in the Daily Voice earlier this week.
* If you have been a victim, call FotH on 086 111 5008 or email email@example.com or SMS the Daily Voice on 32832.