Plot to gag paper’s Hajj reports

25 Oct

The Daily Voice can reveal a sinister plot to silence this newspaper’s campaign for justice for victims of the Hajj visa sandal.

Some of our journalists who have been bringing this important story to the public’s attention have been contacted directly by shadowy individuals and threatened.

And we can disclose that brave whistle-blowers who also stood up to some of the rogue operators at the centre of the scam have been targeted.

Such is the seriousness of the threats, they are now too afraid to allow their names to be published.

“I’m under tremendous pressure from certain people in the Muslim community and businesses not to engage with the Daily Voice anymore. From now on please don’t use my name,” one source says.

And our own reporters who have been covering the story have also been threatened.

In one case, a man called one of our reporters’ personal cellphone and warned the journalist to stop writing about the scandal that has plunged the entire Hajj industry into turmoil.

“This is a friendly warning: Stop reporting on the Hajj scandal. We are watching you,” the male voice said.

The Daily Voice is taking the threats seriously – a full statement will be given to police on Tuesday so they can investigate the matter.

These cowardly callers,unsurprisingly, did not identify themselves and made the threats via a withheld phone number.

In future, for security reasons, we can no longer reveal the identities of our reporters working on Hajj-related stories.

But the Daily Voice will not be silenced in our campaign to seek justice for the ordinary Muslims who have lost up to a combined R33 million in the visa scandal.

On Monday, we contacted each of the 31 operators affiliated to the under-fire Hajj regulator, the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc).

Eleven of these are under investigation for their role in the scandal, but Sahuc has continuously refused to comment directly on the matter.

We asked all 31 operators a series of questions seeking clarification on a number of key issues relating to the scandal.

However, just one of these operators – Durban-based Irshad Beemath – had responded by the time of going to print on Monday night.

Beemath used the opportunity to clearly state he is not one of the operators under investigation for their role in the controversy.

He confirmed his company successfully took 83 pilgrims to Mecca on packages costing an average of R33 000 each.

None of his customers were left stranded nor are looking to have any of their money reimbursed.

We encourage the majority of those honest Hajj operators who have nothing to hide to follow Mr Beemath’s example – and we are happy to publish their responses in full.

Sahuc failed to respond to queries from the Daily Voice on Monday night urging them to condemn the threats made to this newspaper and high-profile individuals who have been calling for the regulator to be disbanded.

Some of these belong to the Friends of the Hujjaj (FotH), a group that was recently established to represent the victims of the scam.

“Our main focus is the legitimacy of Sahuc,” one FotH member – who did not want to be named for fear of also being targeted – tells the Daily Voice.

“The position of FotH is that we want a body that has a clear mandate from the Muslim public and is recognised by the South African government.”

Despite their opposition to Sahuc, the group says they are opposed to operators who try to bypass Sahuc to obtain visas to the holy city of Mecca.

“We are totally against this and will never encourage Hujjaj in doing this. It was Sahuc’s own accredited agents who have illegally acquired visas for years,” the source adds.

The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) also failed to respond to queries from this newspaper last night.

We also asked the MJC to condemn the threats made against Daily Voice reporters and whistle-blowers who have gone public with their concerns.

But – again – no response was forthcoming.

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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Corruption


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