“I had passed out in my friends’ car with the windows open after a night of drinking at a club during Easter only to wake up to find out that my dreadlocks had been snipped off,” says Boitumelo Sephobe.
He is among the increasing number of Rastafarians who get robbed off their dreadlocks, which has become one of the latest crime trends in the ever expanding Gaborone.
The Gaborone Bus Rank is an established black market for dreadlocks; it is where most of them are sold to local hairdressers. But even salons, barbers and beauty parlours around town trade in dreadlocks. Every day, human hair is passed from one person to another.
Before working as a hair dresser, Lesole Mokokong stayed at his parents’ cattle post at Mogadintsi Lands in Good Hope, a lifestyle which he says he always loathed and was the reason he decided to move to the city. When he got to Gaborone, he couldn’t find a job, so he ended up becoming a hairdresser.
He talks about how working with dreadlocks allowed him to escape the jaws of unemployment.
“I found a niche as a dreadlocks specialist in twisting and connecting since the demand for growing dreadlocks as a fashion statement has risen over the years.”
Mokokong is now a busy, fully fledged hair dresser based at the Gaborone Bus Rank. He owns a stall underneath the main stairs, behind Gaborone Hotel and says he now earns between P9 000 and P12 000 a month from his business, which he uses to educate his children and support his old and feeble parents back at home.
He insists that almost anyone can come with dreadlocks claiming they’re his or hers, so he never hesitates to buy, even if they’re stolen.
“After I buy them, I wash them with shampoo, dye them with black tint, brush and finally iron them…once I have gone through this process, it’s difficult to tell which hair belongs to whom, and besides, dreads don’t even last long on my shelves because they sell like hot cakes.”
He buys and sells dreadlocks.
“People buy dreadlocks from me and connect them to make theirs longer, and it’s hard to tell once I’ve finished weaving the extensions.”
Mokokong says prices for dreadlocks depend on quality, quantity, length and thickness. “The real long ones can cost up to P1 000 but the normal, average prices range between P200 and P300 when I buy them, in most cases.”
He connects dreadlocks using a sharpened crotchet (hikiri), which is originally meant for knitting scarfs and jerseys with wool.
“It costs an extra P200 to connect, then twist the dreadlocks, which takes about two hours to finish,” he adds.
Hair dressers argue that even expensive Brazilian weaves are human hair, so why question the trade of dreadlocks.
‘‘It’s very unfortunate that some people are spreading the wrong message about people stealing dreadlocks,” says one salon proprietor. ‘‘Just because there are people using crime to obtain them, it means that we support crime, which we don’t tolerate!”
Meanwhile, Sephebo has come to terms with the loss of his dreadlocks. He says he is just glad that, at least, he did not get harmed in the process.
“At least I didn’t get my body parts stolen, because nowadays I hear in developed cities like Cape Town you can wake up in a bath tub full of ice and your kidneys missing!”