Shireen Abrahams has owned a hair salon in Loop Street in the CBD for 26 years. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Shireen Abrahams has owned a hair salon in Loop Street in the CBD for 26 years. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Plight of SA hairdressers amid Covid-19 lockdown

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Jun 7, 2020

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Cape Town - Shireen Abrahams looks out of the window of her hair salon in Loop Street in the CBD and misses the activity in the road, and her clients.

Because of the lockdown Abrahams is not allowed to run her business.

“It’s been tough and I don’t foresee many businesses recovering because of the lockdown, especially hairdressers. I don’t understand the logic behind hairdressers being unable to work, because we adhere to the strictest hygiene standards in our salons,” she said.

The doors of Abrahams’s salon, Syzygy, are covered with newspapers. On an average day before the lockdown getting an appointment was difficult; you either had to call a week in advance or hope for a cancellation. Now the salon resembles a graveyard.

“Being in the lockdown for so long makes everyone depressed and everyone is sad. We offer an essential service. We are starving, we are not making any income. The system of the government is not providing any relief for us,” she said.

Abrahams said she had to find ways to pay her rent.

“I had to take out a loan to sustain myself. Just because the economy is so bad I had to budget down just to meet ends meet. I have to pay rent and parking and my shampoo girl’s salary every month. There does not seem to be a window of hope for us,” she said.

Shireen Abrahams from Syzergy Hair Salon had to close their doors for business because of the strict regulations regarding hair salons during lockdown. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Abrahams has owned her salon for 26 years. In 1990, one of her customers was the now Minister of Public Works Patricia De Lille, who had her hair done at Abrahams’s salon while she was campaigning before the elections.

Due to a rent increase earlier this year, Abrahams divided her salon and rented out a portion.

“I am wondering how I am going to pay back my loan over the next few months. Why aren’t we allowed to work? We work long, hard hours. I am stressing every single day because I am wondering how I’m going to survive the rest of the year,” she said.

Hair salons, beauty therapists and cosmetology studios have been closed since March 27, when the nationwide lockdown came into effect.

Nearly 70000 people have signed an online petition launched by the Employers' Organisation for Hairdressing, Cosmetology and Beauty, pleading with the government to reconsider its decision. Last month, an urgent court bid by financially distressed hairdressers to be allowed to go back to work was dismissed in the Western Cape High Court.

Shireen Abrahams has owned a hair salon in Loop Street in the CBD for 26 years. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Advocate Carlo Viljoen brought an application representing hundreds of hairdressers. The case was dismissed because the judge deemed it was cited to the incorrect minister. The minister of Health was cited in the application instead of the minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Meanwhile, the DA has also taken up the fight and is threatening to take the government to court.

Spokesperson of Trade and Industry Dean Macpherson said: “Thousands of people in this country earn a monthly income in this industry. Our litigation will especially be for the sake of the single mothers and the young entrepreneurs who have no other source of income than the personal-care services they provide, often from their homes and other low-rent venues.”

Abrahams said: “I’d like to know when we are going to be allowed to work. For us to maintain clientele means being consistent. Who is willing to come back and support us because we are not sure when to start? We are in the dark and we don’t know when we are going back to work.”


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Cape Argus

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