Premier Hellen Zille is losing touch with reality – in SA not everyone has the privilege not to bath, madam


Someone needs to reign in Hellen Zille; a South African politician and Premier of the Western Cape province. Seriously, she is losing touch with reality. As much as I am a feminist, I am also a part of the fourth estate and so it is also my duty as a journalist to write about public officials and their actions or omissions. Or in this case utterances.

Just like many others, I get my news out of a bubble created specifically for each and every person by Facebook – the one called your circle of friends where information that reaches you fast is the one shared by your friends on social media. Because, whether we like it or not some of us log onto Facebook before we check the newspapers.

So one of my friends shared an article in a South African newspaper in which Hellen Zille graciously shared: “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.”

Helen Zille

Hellen Zille arriving for the SONA address in 2016.  Credits: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp

My reaction to that article was: “why is her showering even a thing? I couldn’t make sense of it and so decided to read the whole article. Only to find out she painstakingly tried to explain how she saves water by not bathing every day.

Well, madam, bragging about washing every other third day while living in a manor – which, let’s be clear, is probably disinfected every other hour – is so out of touch with the grand scheme of things.

You know when Hellen Zille gloated about how colonialism helped Africa develop – conveniently forgetting to mention how Africans were murdered, raped, forced to work for nothing and then grabbed and sold to slavery – I almost wanted to move on from that. I said, well it was a stupid thing said within 140 characters so I will give her a pass until she wrote a whole lengthy column about saving water by not bathing!

I don’t know where you live, madam Zille, but not everyone in the Western Cape lives in a manor and for people living in makeshift housing in an area where there is almost always fresh sewer running on their untarred roads, bathing is an act of survival.

You can’t gloat about not bathing as an act of responsibility when really you don’t bath because you can afford not to! You live in a clean mansion, eat a well-balanced diet and can afford state-of-the-art medical care so of course not bathing is a choice of convenience and not a revolutionary act.