The Sunday Mail
Ellen Sanyanga and Emmanuel Kafe
FOR high-end, quality and long 100 percent human hair extensions, women in Zimbabwe part with between US$350 and US$1 000.
Traditionally, human hair extensions were meant for people with hair loss problems, but they are now a trendy fashion accessory.
Some of this hair comes from Brazil, Malaysia, India and Peru, among many other countries. The hair is thus named after the country of origin.
Many women spend a lot of money on these hair extensions, which are usually woven into weaves or wigs.
Most women believe that human and synthetic hair extensions make them look better and beautiful.
But, ever since the advent of the wig snatchers that are roaming the streets, most women are now thinking twice before spending their hard-earned US dollars on these expensive wigs. Those who continue to wear the expensive hair wigs have to hold on tight to “their hair”.
Expensive wigs are apparently the “new gold” for Harare’s criminals.
According to an investigation conducted by The Sunday Mail Society, closely knit syndicates of thieves are stealing the high-end wigs and reselling them for a fraction of their actual cost.
The “huya tigere or toruka here” men and women who usually mill around saloons are involved in this racket.
The thieves snatch the wigs and run to escape instant justice. Some even dress in a scruffy manner to look like street urchins, who are then used as scapegoats for the criminal acts.
The thieves mainly target Brazilian, Peruvian and Malaysian hair wigs as these are very popular and can be sold quickly. It has also emerged that the syndicates work in cahoots with hairdressers, who buy and resell the wigs at lower prices.
While urban legend has it that dreadlocks cut from dead people before their burial is sold to clients seeking instant long locks, snatched hair extensions seem to be the new cake.
As bizarre as it sounds, many women going about their day-to-day business have had their expensive hair pulled from their heads. There has been a rise in the number of women taking to social media to complain about either falling victim to the wig snatchers or witnessing someone being robbed of their wig.
Those that spoke to this publication confirmed that indeed, hair extensions are being snatched and sold for a song.
The alleged theft has prompted ladies to avoid certain streets in Harare.
Hairdresser Sharon Matunhira, who operates at Diamond Saloon along Julius Nyerere Way, confirmed the existence of the syndicates. “It’s nothing new, it has been happening for a long time. Most women are now avoiding this area,” she said.
Another hairdresser who preferred anonymity said a lot of people, especially men, are selling all types of hair extensions, from synthetics to human hair, with some of them very expensive.
“Our clients snap them up quickly because they know how expensive these wigs are. They go for the bargain, although they do not know that the wigs would have been snatched from other people’s heads,” she said.
The lady said the thieves re-sell the wigs, which are valued at hundreds of US dollars, for a “quickie fee” of US$20 or so.
“We re-do the wigs and change the shades before re-selling it to our clients,” the woman said.
She said the daring thieves have become very good at spotting the difference between a weave and a wig, high quality and low quality synthetics.
The hairdresser urged ladies to either choose tight wigs or to stick to plaited weaves.
“It is wise to get your wig pinned tight to your freehand lines to avoid such incidents,” she opined.
The victims of this growing criminal trend say the act is a manifestation of gender-based violence that has left women under siege.
“As women, hair is our crowning glory. Without hair, one almost feels like their femininity has been taken away from them. There will be no dignity at all,” said Prisca Chirinda.
Another woman said she has a hair loss problem. She said it would be humiliating if her wig was snatched from her head.
Weave snatching has become a common act as culprits see a lucrative market in re-selling them for a fraction of the price of what a new one costs.
Hair extensions made from 100 percent natural hair cost much more than those made from synthetic material. In the past decade, human hair extensions have become popular as they are considered to be easily adaptable.
Most women like the fact that they can blow-dry them, colour them or style them without worrying that they will be damaged.