By Everson Luhanga

Ask any woman and they will tell you that the hairdressers, nail manicurists and beauty salon owners that usually do a thriving business in the townships are an essential service.

A woman needs to look beautiful to feel her best.

But the government does not agree. Lockdown regulations say the beauty industry is not an essential service.

So the township beauty industry has gone underground. 

Many of them are continuing to operate out of their often cramped homes.

One beauty therapist, Tumelo Mokgokolo from Alexandra, says the lockdown pushed her to make an alternative plan to survive. 

“Since I have been home, clients have been following me. I now work from home.”

She specializes in:

•          Facials

•          Manicures and pedicures

•          Spray tanning

•          Lashes

•          Makeup

•          Hair

“I serve at least six customers a day. Although it is not the money I used to make, I have something for my family.

“My greatest fear is that my clients might bring the virus to my family. It could kill me,” she says.

She says while men are also hard hit with the closure of the industry, women are suffering more. “Women love taste, variety, and style.

“Doing your hair and nails is a confidence booster. If you look good, you don’t feel depressed,” says Boitumelo.

She says when doing their hair and nails, they try different colours and styles. “Women are adventurous when it comes to their beauty and looks. They love themselves,” she says.

She says it very hard for them to do their own hair. “They love to be out and later on show their partners the swag they have done.”

Lebo Mashigo, Zamamiya Tshambu and Selloane Maletsatsi Moleli at the byMaletsatsi Annual Picnics for National Headwrap Day

Getting the treatment at someone’s home is not quite the same, though. 

Women interviewed by Scrolla.Africa miss the swag of visiting the salon.

Hairdresser Zelda Diziba, says it has been tough. “I have three kids. Before lockdown, I used to pay their school fees, buy groceries, pay rent, stokvel, and manage my life.

“All that has gone,” she says.

The day Scrolla.Africa spoke to Zelda, she had an order to make a wig. She was doing it inside her handbag – out of fear of the police enforcing the lockdown regulations.

Johanna Acquah is the manager at Xebglo saloon. She says she and her seven workers have closed their doors. “We had customers from Tembisa, Woodmead, Kelvin, Lyndhurst, and all the surrounding areas. They all have nowhere to go.”

Seloane Moleli who owns byMaletsatsi Doeks says the township beauty industry looks closed on the outside, but the business is still underway in people’s homes.

Seloane says she has seen an increasing number of clients buying her doeks since lockdown.

Jodene Louw, Nthati Machesa and Clerisha Jansen at the byMaletsatsi Annual Picnics for National Headwrap Day

“Doeks are a way to go as they have swag and style. It promotes Africanism in most black communities,” she says.

But Mapula Shiko says the doeks and caps make her sweat. “I prefer my natural cut since there is no plan B now,” she says.

Jonathan says since lockdown, he has been forced to cut his own hair. “You cannot find these guys (underground barbers) easily. You need to have connections,” he says.

Some names have been changed.


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