Court postpones hearing on reopening of hair salons

Various hair dresser tools on pink background with copy space
The Western Cape High Court on Friday postponed the hearing of the legal challenge to the continued closure of hair salons by 10 days after counsel for Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma asked for more time to file papers.

The ministry told ANA its lawyers had informed the court that the protocols that would dictate safety measures for the industry to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic were being finalised.

“Protocols have been drafted, but no decision has been taken because these need to be discussed by the medical advisers,” Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesperson, Lungi Mtshali, said.

He said the ministry did not think it was sensible to file opposing arguments while a decision on the matter by Cabinet was pending.

According to Mtshali, hair salons and the rest of the personal care industry were meant to be included in the large-scale reopening of the economy which happened on June 1, when the country moved down to alert level 3 of the nationwide lockdown.

“This did not happen, because we needed protocols in place because in the sector the client and the service provider are not able to be at a distance of 1.5 metres from each other.”

He said because the ministry was working to resolve the issue, “these court challenges by parties who are not in the industry are really not helpful”.

The court application to lift the ban on the industry was brought on an urgent basis by the official opposition Democratic Alliance this week and set down for argument on Friday.

It will now be heard by a full bench of the high court on June 22. Cabinet is set to meet on Wednesday and is expected to consider the matter.

It indicated in a statement on Thursday that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), which is styled as a Cabinet subcommittee but in fact comprises all ministers, this week made recommendations relating to the enhanced risk-adjusted alert level 3 of the national lockdown.

“However, Cabinet decided to defer approval of the recommendations pending a full health assessment report from the Ministerial Health Advisory Committee on Covid-19. The NCCC is expected to receive the full presentation by early next week,” according to the statement.

DA trade and industry spokesperson Dean Macpherson described Dlamini-Zuma’s failure to file responding arguments on Friday as a delaying tactic.

He said that should the government fail to decide to lift the ban next week, Dlamini-Zuma would be forced to explain its reasoning to the high court.

“The DA sincerely hopes that Cabinet puts the people of the industry first and ends their economic suffering. If Minister Dlamini-Zuma and Cabinet do not do so, they would then be forced to provide these reasons under oath.

“There has been a steadfast refusal by Minister Dlamini-Zuma to open up the personal care industry, let alone meet her own self-imposed deadlines to do so. The court has ordered the minister to file and go on record if the government does not open the sector on Wednesday.”

In its founding affidavit to the court, the DA argued that the ban on the personal care industry was irrational and unlawful because Parliament had not delegated authority to the minister, via the Disaster Management Act, to indefinitely prohibit the operation of an entire industry.

It is believed that the hair and beauty trade employs at least 90,000 people.

The DA argued that it was arbitrary to prevent them from earning a living when other sectors had reopened and religious gatherings were allowed. Under level 3, massage practitioners have been allowed to resume trade.

African News Agency (ANA)