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Motswana Muslim escaped death in Saudi Arabia

A Motswana Muslim, based at the Letlhakane Islamic centre, Mr Alhajj Salahuddin, formerly known as Onalenna Chabaya, who has just returned from Saudi Arabia and bore witness to the bloody stampede where more than 700 people died and 900 more were injured says he escaped death by a whisker.

Recounting details of this unforgettable experience that occurred last week Thursday, Mr Salahuddin says the stampede took place just as he was returning from the stoning ritual in Mina, nine kilometers from the holy city of Mecca. He says the crush was caused by pilgrims who did not follow the laid down routes and protocol.

“There were close to five million people attending the Hajj, we had assembled in what is known as Arafat where the crowd resembles the Day of Judgment. Early in the morning we went out in our millions to stone a pillar that symbolizes Satan. It was after this stoning that two oceans of people came face to face with the soldiers who were assigned to control people’s movement. Failing to turn either crowd backwards, mayhem suddenly occurred as people started pilling on both sides and on each other with no group aiming to go back. At this point many people died and got injured,” he says.

He says while the Hajj crowds are generally organised, had the other group followed protocol, the stampede would have been avoided. Pointing out that it was explained to them that any mistake in the movement of people due to the huge number of people was bound to cause a stampede.

He says the annual Hajj pilgrimage hosted Muslims from all around the world and is considered sacred in Islam and something that every able-bodied Muslim should embark on once in their life time even as the trip is laden with risks. He says he was aware of the dangers posed by the war in Yemen and possible death as a crane accident that killed more than 100 people had just occurred before his arrival in Mecca.


 “I might have escaped death because I took a different turn and followed instructions after the stoning ritual, but death during the Hajj is a huge blessing. It would have been an honor for me to die in Mecca,” he says.

 He explains that it is better to die at a holy place of worship, in service of God than from other causes, adding that he was not fearful as the tragedy unfolded before his very eyes as to him “death is the only thing that we can be sure of.”

Looking back at the very moment people starting pushing and shoving before the stampede ensured he remembers a cacophony of noises, crowds going crazy and then ambulances noises and emergency services swiftly arriving at the scene.  He says while it was unfortunate to lose some friends and fellow worshippers, he is happy with how the event went as the Saudis were highly organised and handled the whole event with meticulous precision.  

“There were police with PA systems and people to guide us all throughout our journey and processions, they shouted hurry hurry as millions of people were behind, one lapse in understanding or concentration created a problem, some people put their lives in danger by not responding to instructions about where to go and how to move. Overall we were treated like royalty”.

He lauded the hospitality of the Saudis saying no other country on earth can host Hajj better than Saudi Arabia, he says it was surreal seeing people of all races and in his estimation more than double the population of Botswana in one place all being taken care of and focused on the same thing. 

“We were treated very well, being given the best food, the best of everything, 24 hour attention, police guard and five star hospitality, even the guys who died received the best treatment from the hosts before their death,” he says.  

He argues that all the dead are martyrs who are now in heaven. He promises to return to Mecca no matter the risks and says the incident has cemented his faith.

He says soon he will offer lessons to other Muslims about the Hajj to share spiritual transformation from his journey, saying having been among only six Batswana that made the trip to Mecca, it is appropriate to address him as Al Hajj, a title he has now earned by going to Mecca. He also points out that Botswana can learn a lot from Saudi Arabia where the HIV/AIDS infection rate is at zero percent.

He says he thanks Allah for the lessons, Mr Al Hajj Al Hassan Linchwe, Ahmed of the Botswana Muslim Supreme Council, Al hajj Hamid Kunju, chairperson of Letlhakane Islamic centre, Brother AbuBakr Ibrahim Dudu imam of the Letlhakane Islamic Centre, Musa Mukasa, brother Ibrahim Mulindwa and his wife Fadheela who were all instrumental in making his holy pilgrimage to Hajj 2015 possible “Their reward is with Allah alone” he concludes.

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The resolution by the CC, which Masisi proposed, is viewed as a ploy to deflate the incumbent, Mpho Balopi’s political ambitions and send him into political obscurity. The two have not been on good terms since the 2019 elections, and the fallout has been widening despite attempts to reconcile them. In essence, the BDP says that Balopi, who is currently a Member of Parliament, Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, and a businessman, is overwhelmed by the role.

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Moitoi’s application follows the Secretary-General’s launch of the third edition of the Global Call for Heads and Deputy Heads of United Nations Field Missions, which aims to expand the pool of candidates for the positions of SRSG) and their deputies to advance gender parity and geographical diversity at the most senior leadership level in the field. These mission leadership positions are graded at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels.

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