- Simon Hodgson was surprised when he learned former president Jacob Zuma was seated next to him on an economy flight
- The Gauteng Communications manager said he and Zuma spoke about everything from church to their children, where the former president even joked about Duduzane
- Hodgson said his encounter with Zuma was far from what he expected, adding he was courteous‚ warm and kind
Former president Jacob Zuma has received a lot of bad press over the past few years and a lot of South Africans have hostile feelings towards him.
But, a man's recent encounter with the former president indicated he's not all bad, in fact he is actually quite a pleasant guy.
Simon Hodgson was shocked when he learned he would be seated next to the most controversial former president in the post-apartheid years.
Hodgson was getting ready for the 50-minute Kulula flight to Durban on Wednesday with his six-year old son Matthew on his left, when he heard someone ask him to move his can of soda.
"I looked up and there stood Jacob Zuma. It took me a few minutes to realise that he was coming to sit next to me in economy class. It was an unexpected start to my Wednesday‚" he said.
Zuma took his seat and his bodyguard sat behind him, next to Hodgson's wife Tarryn and their little girl, 4.
Hodgson and the former president started talking immediately, he broke the ice by reminding Zuma he had met him in 2010 at an event his church held at Monte Casino.
He recalled Zuma clearly remembered the event, and he said he still had the sword the church gifted him, which was at his home.
The conversation soon led to their children, because they spoke about his daughter Gugu, whom accompanied her father to the event.
Hodgson said at one point Zuma even joked about Duduzane, saying ‘you must know Duduzane‚ the most famous of all my children?’.
The communications manager said he and a relaxed Zuma then spoke about their day, with the former president telling him he went to visit the late Ma Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's home, but was now on his way back to Nkandla.
Hodgson said Zuma made a point to talk to the passengers close to him. He struck up a conversation with a woman sitting across from him.
She's a school principal and she shared some of her ideas for education, which Zuma attentively listened to, he reportedly even took her down her contact information.
By the time the food cart came around, Zuma could not find his wallet, so the principal bought him some Pringles.
Hodgson said throughout the entire flight Zuma entertained passengers who came to his seat to talk or take photos.
"There was one moment that I found very cute‚ when my son Matthew offered him some of his Easter eggs and Zuma accepted some saying that he loved chocolate. He even shared some of his Pringles and peppermints with my son." he recalled.
"I found the whole encounter very interesting. It wasn't the space to discuss politics or the controversy surrounding him and I wasn't going to bring it up. In fact people have very strong opinions about him but when you're confronted face to face‚ engaging with him‚ he was just courteous‚ warm and kind. He was very nice and talkative."
Hodgson said he did ask Zuma why he was flying in economy, which he found strange, but the former head of state said he had done it before on quick trips to Durban.
However, Hodgson said he saw on Facebook many people accused Zuma of copying Ramaphosa, who apparently had also made use of economy before.
Hodgson said when he posted the story of Facebook he had no idea widespread attention it would get, adding some people asked him why he did not confront the former president.
But, the father of two said he felt it was not the place.
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