Thursday’s meeting between the four halal issuing authorities that is scheduled to take place in Lenasia starting at 12h30 has drawn much interest with both the National Consumer Forum (NCF) and Orion Cold Storage asking for the opportunity to attend the meeting. However, the National Independent Halal Authority (NIHT) who called for the meeting as a precursor to a National Meat Traders Summit in the new year, maintained that it was critical for the four halal bodies to sit down as a matter of urgency following the halal relabeling scandal that rocked the country in November.
“This meeting is exclusively between the four halal certifiers to forge and plan a way forward to the envisaged Halal Summit in the new year. However, we can place the issue of the NCF on the agenda. Furthermore, the NIHT fully welcomes the support of the halal bodies in rooting out any malpractices in the halal industry, especially pertaining to imported meat and chicken products.
“We make dua that Allah Almighty gives us all sincerity of intention and may He use us in fulfilling the needs of the Muslim Ummah,” Maulana Abdul Wahab Wookay of the NIHT stated on Wednesday. On Tuesday the NIHT confirmed that the Muslim Judicial Council Halal Trust (MJCHT), SA National Halal Authority (Sanha) and Islamic Council of South Africa (Icsa) had all confirmed attendance at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Imraahn Mukaddam, Western Cape co-ordinator of the NCF, commended the call for the summit and made its submission for Thursday’s meeting in writing. “We would have appreciated an opportunity to give input, but understand the complexities involved in getting the parties together. We do, however, make this written submission for consideration on the way forward,” he stated.
Mukaddam said the NCF was keen to meet with all the role players “in the interest of Muslim consumers whom we all respect as our primary constituency. We believe that in order to do this, there needs to be constructive engagement which is presently not the case”. On a different note, he said the NCF endorsed the proposed Halal Bill and believes this is the only long term solution to the standardization of the halal industry. “It is also only through legislation that the violations of halal requirements can be adequately policed and prosecuted.”
As for its position on Orion Cold Storage – which had earlier admitted in court that imported products had been relabelled on its premises by employees whom it claimed had been paid by saboteurs – Mukaddam said: “Whilst there is a criminal investigation into the label fraud debacle, this company cannot be trusted. Halal certification should be withheld until the criminal matter is resolved. We trust your deliberations at this summit will get us a step closer to the long term resolution of these issues that is causing so much anxiety and confusion in the Muslim community.”
On its part, Orion CEO Patric Gaertner also approached the four bodies for an opportunity to address them at Thursday’s meeting. “I kindly request that our situation be placed on the agenda. I have requested numerous times to meet with the executive of the MJC Halaal Trust Board. This meeting is proposed at their convenience and at a location acceptable to them. To date no response has been received. I hereby extend the same invitation to all the other regulating boards. I am likewise available to attend your meeting in Johannesburg and answer any questions you may have for me,” he wrote.
According to Gaertner, the company was “deeply embarrassed by the events that have taken place at our premises, and while we remain convinced that none of our Muslim clientele was involved in this sabotage, we need to take whatever steps are necessary to rebuild (ties with) the Muslim community. We would also like to present to you a possible candidate to act as a halal inspector and link between us and the MJC.”
He reiterated the company’s undertaking made in court papers to work together with the MJC to reach a solution satisfactory to all halal bodies. “We maintain that decisions were taken without all the facts being made available, and are are suffering huge losses as a result of cancellations and suspensions until the matter be resolved, and do request that we be afforded the opportunity to present our case. We have also put forward a possible candidate to the MJC, and he has liaised with them in this regard.”
In response, the NIHT reiterated that the meeting was exclusively for halal bodies. “Unfortunately we are not in a position to accommodate your request at this stage. Therefore, regretfully we urge you to continue your existing discussions with the MJC. However, the Orion debacle is part of the agreed agenda. Should there be any developments in the interim you will be informed accordingly,” Wookay wrote in his response.
In the interim, the MJC confirmed to VOC last week that it has yet to meet with Orion. VOC’s Open Lines on Monday at 7pm will follow up on the outcome of Thursday’s meeting and look ahead at the meat summit. VOC (Munadia Karaan)