Hairdressers go underground since lockdown continues in South Africa
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Hairdressers Go Underground Since Lockdown Continues in South Africa

Matunhira is a beauty hairdresser who arrived at her client’s house at Johannesburg with relaxer, gel, and dye; all set to restart her business after lockdown. Discreet house calls are the new routine for the lady, who went jobless when all salons and barbershops closed down to the lockdown in South Africa. The lockdown is now on the 11th week since inception.

Matunhira sometimes sneaks into the apartment building when her clients call her for services. This is to avoid the security guards who might not allow outsiders. She is forced to take such steps in order to keep up her living or else she would go hungry.

While Matunhira applied black dye to the client’s faded blonde hair, she reported about how she is having to fend for her food. The lady is currently not being able to pay for rent or send money to her family back in Zimbabwe. She was busy saving up money to send her son to university before lockdown but that also seems like a distant dream now.

Matunhira could be jailed for visiting clients at their home since hairdressers are still banned from working due to lockdown rules. Even though the government is relaxing lockdown rules to restart the economy partially. But salon jobs involve a lot of touching and need experts to be in close proximity to their clients. That is why they still need more time to set rules on how to work this out.

The situation of hairdressers and beauty specialists

Beauty specialists who depend on the industry entirely and generate $3.84 billion in sales are now under severe threat. The Northern Gauteng divisional manager under Employers Organisation for Hairdressing Cosmetology and Beauty, Mariska du Plessis, said that according to industry survey 70% of businesses might be closed down and have severe job cuts. Already 21% of the industry has closed down.

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The government informed the industry authorities that they were making guidelines to help them reopen for the personal care sector. However, they haven’t given a specific time frame to do so.

The Johannesburg central business district has forced hairdressers to operate on the road. They are offering clients to do dreadlocks and box braids. They refused to interview and report to the press about their situation. Some businesses are trying to thrive with online retail. However, it is tough to get through sales.

Cola Mthembu who owns at a beauty and hair salon at Northgate shopping mall at Johannesburg said that the retail sales only account for 20% to 30% of their turnover. It is not enough to cover monthly expenses. She said that the lockdown has been detrimental to the business. They have been stranded from doing business and there seems to be no clarity on getting back soon.

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