Dread thieves cut and run
Jasper Munsinwa was partying at a Johannesburg club when he noticed his friend was missing. Minutes later, he found him passed out - with all of his dreadlocks shorn off.
Munsinwa's friend, Mutsa Madonko, who was visiting from Zimbabwe early this month and has since left, is one of a growing number of people who have had their dreadlocks stolen in the past few months.
The thefts, said hair stylists, were probably connected to the rising demand for natural dreadlocks as extensions.
Shoulder-length dreadlocks are sold for between R200 and R700, while longer ones cost as much as R2500.
Munsinwa said it was clear that whoever stole his friend's hair - which had taken him 10 years to grow - was after nothing else.
"When we found him, he still had his cellphone and wallet with all his money inside."
Dreadlock stylists outside the Central Methodist Church in central Johannesburg said such is the demand for dreadlocks that few ask questions when the matted locks are offered for sale.
Said John Wushe: "They are becoming very popular. On a busy day we get about 10 people [wanting] to extend their hair."
But not everyone is keen on using a stranger's hair.
Willy Selahla of Soweto said: "I'm using my brother's hair because I know where it comes from and that he wasn't hurt."
For clients wanting the extensions, the dreadlocks are either woven in individually using a thin crocheting hook or sewn together using a needle and thread .
The process usually takes about two hours to complete and costs between R250 and R1500 depending on the length and thickness of the hair.
Although more and more stories of dreadlock theft are coming to light, only one case was reported to the Durban central police station last year.
Johannesburg police spokesman Captain John Maluleka encouraged victims to open cases of assault. He said: "We have only heard stories - no cases have been reported to us."
Maluleka said it could be a case of victims being too embarrassed to report the theft of their hair.
Randburg stylist Lebo Masimong said women were the most vulnerable.
"You are an easy target if you walk around the CBD and your hair is loose. They don't care about your money or fancy phone. They are only after your hair."