There has been strong lobbying for hairdressers to be reopened, especially for women who battle with greying hair that needs colouring, as many head back to work under level 3 of the lockdown. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)
There has been strong lobbying for hairdressers to be reopened, especially for women who battle with greying hair that needs colouring, as many head back to work under level 3 of the lockdown. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

Consumer Watch: Growing support for beauty sector’s reopening

By Georgina Crouth Time of article published Jun 15, 2020

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The DA is forging ahead with its challenge of the ban on hairdressers and personal care services under level 3 lockdown. The party took the government to court on Friday.

Western Cape High Court Judge Mark Sher postponed the matter to June 22 for it to be heard before a full bench of the court, because Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had not filed opposing papers.

Dean Macpherson, DA spokesperson on trade and industry, says: “There have been no consultations. The judge had asked us to agree to a timeline and they refused to agree to that. So the judge moved on and told her to file opposing affidavits by the 18th and go to trial on the 22nd.”

Cogta disagrees, with spokesperson Mlungisi Mtshali saying: “The minister did not fail to do anything. We went to court today to agree on the timeline to respond to this matter.”

Mtshali says they explained to the DA’s attorneys that Cabinet is already dealing with the matter. “The ministers, including the Minister of Small Business, are already engaging with the sector as a whole to develop protocols that will allow the sector to open.

“By their own admission, the DA is aware that an agreement on the directions is imminent and the revised draft will be presented to Cabinet. So we are trying to understand this public stance of the DA’s.”

Officially, there are more than 40000 hair salons in the country, but up to a million people are employed by the personal care industry, which include hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, nail technicians and piercing shops.

Macpherson says banning the industry indefinitely is unconstitutional; no minister has been appointed to oversee the process and Dlamini Zuma has snubbed efforts to rectify the situation.

Hair and beauty technicians have been fighting the ban since March; an online petition pleading with the government to allow them to operate during level 4 lockdown reached 70000 signatures.

It was initiated by the Employers' Organisation for Hairdressing, Cosmetology and Beauty (EOHCB). Last month, the organisation lost an urgent court bid on behalf of hundreds of hairdressers in the Western Cape High Court, because the wrong minister was cited in the papers.

The EOHCB had appealed to the government to reconsider the risk adjustment level, which is at level 1 for the industry. They want to operate under strict health and safety protocols and regulations, which are already in place.

On Friday, DA leader John Steenhuisen received a haircut live on air. He spoke to Sue-Kelly Shoshana Maneveld, owner of Be-Dazzle in Kenilworth, Brian Oosthuizen, founder of Bloke’s in Greenpoint, and Bloke’s barber, Angela Haupt.

Maneveld told Steenhuisen that she’s worked from the age of 12 and employs 25 staff. Since lockdown, she’s been unable to trade legally and unlike others who have been forced to operate on the black market, she’s afraid of arrest because she’s a law student.

“Some of my staff are sole breadwinners - I’ve tried to give what I can but I don’t have an income. We’ve done everything by the book but no one has even received a UIF payment. I know of other salons who have also not received.”

Maneveld said while she was ready to reopen her store, hygiene had always been at the heart of the beauty industry. “We have everything in place, all the protocols. I now have masks, gloves, thermometers, gel sanitisers, perspex at the nail and beauty section. Cleanliness and hygiene have always been our life. We (beauticians) complete an entire module on germs and viruses during our studies.”

She said she’d gone into many shops now allowed to trade and they had the bare minimum standards of hygiene, with a little sanitiser at the entrance: “Where is the justice, where is the fairness, to us?”

Oosthuizen said salons and hairdressers had also always operated on an appointment system, managing when and how their clients enter.

“Once we reopen, we’d rather meet clients outside, that way we can control clients coming in and out. We’ll have more control over social distancing. We’ll be sanitising clients outside, before they come in.”

Oosthuizen said both a barber’s cape and chair were sanitised, “just like all the combs, clips, etc are sterilised after every single client anyway”.

“In barber shops we use Barbicide (certified by the EPA to protect against coronaviruses, including Covid-19), it’s an extremely strong product, used for all equipment, after every single service.”

The Bloke’s owner said there had been no communication from the government, despite Cogta’s claims to the contrary, but Bloke’s was proactive. “We intensified our sanitising measures before lockdown. The hygiene protocols have always been there, they’re just at a higher level now.

“If everyone follows the safety protocols, there’s simply no reason why we can’t trade.”

Haupt said it had been tough for everyone in the industry.

“Most of us rely on commission so we don’t qualify for UIF benefits. It’s affected my family in a massive way, we’ve lost a major source of income,” she said.

“I’ve taken on more credit, which has put us in a far worse position. We’re pressured from all sides - rent and school fees have to be paid, children need clothes, the banks want their money and you still have to live. It’s unbelievably stressful and we’ve done nothing wrong to deserve this. Our industry has always been focused on hygiene and safe practices.”

Last week, it was reported that two US hairdressers who saw dozens of clients while infected with the virus, but were unaware of their illness, did not pass the virus to any of their customers because they had worn masks, American health officials said.

There were fears that the two stylists at Great Clips in Springfield, Missouri, had exposed their 140 customers to the virus last month.

“This is exciting news about the value of masking to prevent Covid-19,” Springfield-Greene County director of health Clay Goddard said. Facial coverings are still mandated in many public places the world over.

The health department said that in addition to the mandatory mask requirement, the Great Clips had other policies, like the distancing of chairs and staggered appointments, that are likely to have prevented the spread of the disease.

* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected], tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.

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