Open-air hairdressers sprout in Mbare

Its 6.30am. Melody Mamutse of Kuwadzana 5 is hailing Mbare-bound commuter omnibuses. She is late for work.

“We don’t have roofs over our heads - so we have to do it during convenient times as we can be affected by weather conditions.”
“We don’t have roofs over our heads – so we have to do it during convenient times as we can be affected by weather conditions.”

Unlike many other women who at that time of the day would rushing to Mbare to buy ‘greens’ for resale, she is rushing to her salon before the weather becomes unfavourable. True to the old adage the early bird catches the worm –she has to be at work on time.

“I have to be in the office before it becomes hot. Most of my customers want their hair done in the morning or later in the afternoon,” said Melody.

“We don’t have roofs over our heads – so we have to do it during convenient times as we can be affected by weather conditions.” Melody is one of the many enterprising people who have set-up salons and barbershops at the Shawasha Grounds – an open space between Mupedzanhamo and Shawasha Flats in the heart of Mbare, where everything is literarily up for grabs. It is no more just a recreational place.

“It used to be a nice place reserved for recreational purposes but of late, it has taken a new face. The once refreshing place is fast taking a new image with various persons engaging in mostly illegal activities invading our once playground,” said Believe (13) of Nenyere Flats.

A visit to the place by this reporter revealed a shocking sight as different individuals have set up business entities ranging from hairdressing and touting, to vending and prostitution.

The beauty salons offer a wide range of services – from hair styling and skin treatments to tanning, manicures and make-up application.

Melody said she had been running her salon for a couple of years and things have been good for her. “I have been operating here, selling second-hand hair extensions for the past five years and I have managed to raise my four children as a single mother.

The fact that some vendors in Mupedzanhamo don’t have time to go for treatment in town has been a blessing to us as we record brisk business especially during this festive season.” Charging low prices gives a competitive advantage over well-established rivals.

Melody said she used to a rent-a-chair in an up-market beauty parlour but high rental drove her out. “Even though several hair salons are seeking the services of rent-a-chair hairdressers in town, the rentals they ask are prohibitive. Here I am assured of pocketing every cent I get.” A barber who operates in a toilet-cum-barbershop said life had been good. “On a good day, I can pocket a cool $25 and with this festive season we made a killing,” he said.

The enterprising hair stylists have even found a way to beat the frequent power outages. “Our operations are now solar-powered,” said Edmore Nyangoni.

But there is plenty of drama, as the hairdressers are sometimes engaged in running battles with municipal authorities and police.

Colleen Pasi of Shawasha Flats registered his displeasure in the way these people are carrying out their duties.

“It all started as a few years ago, when the country was experiencing economic hardship that people resorted to vending. Then these ladies started selling second-hand hair extensions and we thought it would die a natural death. But it seems the vendors are unstoppable. Early this year we were surprised to see a toilet being turned into a barbershop,” he said.

Steady Kangata, the education and publicity officer with Environmental Management Agency, said the area was “suffering silently”.

“If there are hairdressers operating in the open space then it is obvious that waste is generated and since there are no proper waste disposal facilities, in many cases, waste goes into rivers, where it can have a negative impact on the environment and wildlife,” said Kangata. “As much as these hairdressers are making their clients look beautiful they should take their fair share in making the surrounding area beautiful, too. The problem is that some of the materials that are used, like thin plastics and gloves, don’t decompose at all,” he added.

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