A leading South African politician has claimed she only showers once every three days to save water, despite sometimes worrying about the “hygienic and aesthetic consequences”.
Helen Zille, premier of the Western Cape, said that she regarded having oily hair during a drought to be “as much of a status symbol as a dusty car”.
The revelations about her personal habits came after a furious row between the Democratic Alliance politician and one of the country’s leading newspapers, the Times, over her use of water.
It began when the paper ran a story headlined “Parched Cape taxpayers fork out for Zille’s 90,000-rand [about £5,000] water purifier” at the premier’s official residence, Leeuwenhof.
The purifier was fitted to enable the property to use a natural spring that flows from Table Mountain, instead of the city’s water supply, which is subject to limits because of the drought.
The report also suggested that people living at the home had been using an average of 165 litres of water each every day, nearly double the city’s target figure of 87 litres per person.
In a lengthy response on the PoliticsWeb news site, Ms Zille said the process by which this had been calculated by the journalist was akin to adding two and two together to get 22. For example, she said the figure failed to take into account that up to 30 people worked on the estate during the day in addition to its permanent residents.
She then insisted she and her husband were extremely frugal water users.
“We try to use so little water, that I sometimes get worried about the hygienic and aesthetic consequences,” Ms Zille said.
“I shower briefly, once every three days, and for the rest wash in the hand basin. I used to wash my hair every day, but now only when I shower, with visibly negative consequences.
“However, I regard oily hair in a drought to be as much of a status symbol as a dusty car.”
In an editorial, headlined “The lady doth protest too much”, the Times claimed Ms Zille was acting like the current US president.
“Zille accused us of publishing fake news, egregious distortion, personal grudges, political bias, misrepresentation, manipulation and spin. In other words, she behaved like that other thin-skinned occupier of a state-owned mansion, Donald Trump,” it wrote.
The paper said its original article had simply been a report of a meeting of the provincial parliament.