The last two days have been a bit of a circus! My plan on Wednesday morning, was for my mate Duncan to drop us at the airport, then disappear for a quiet week of holiday on the South coast with the family. All went according to plan, until the moment I was onboard the friendly green kulula flight putting on my seatbelt, and I heard the air hostess asking me to please move my can of Coke Light from the seat next to me. That was the moment I looked up and found myself face to face with arguably South Africa’s most controversial figure, Mr Jacob Zuma himself!
After I casually posted THAT picture on my Instagram and Facebook pages, I hardly thought about it again, until I checked my phone a few hours later and discovered a mountain of feedback that I couldn’t have imagined! And from that moment until now, I have been inundated with calls, emails and messages from people everywhere wanting to hear more about what happened on that flight. Brent Lindeque from Good Things Guy was the first media person to be in touch and published it before anyone else. Since him, I have lost count of the interviews I’ve done with newspapers, websites, radio stations…
People have had a lot of questions for me, so I thought I’d try answer as much as I can here… I have this platform available after all :)
Where you pre-advised about being seated next to Jacob Zuma?
Absolutely not, and I highly doubt there was much planning behind it. He did have a bodyguard seated directly behind him (next to my wife) which was obviously required, but I’m sure his seat next to me was just random.
What did you think when you saw him?
It took a few seconds for my brain to catch up! When I realized he was actually going to be seated next to me, I wracked my brain as to what I’d say to him to break the ice. Luckily I had met him before, so I used this as a way to start to the conversation. To my amazement he remembered the event as clearly as I do. It was a Father’s Day service for God First Church in 2010 at the Teatro at Montecasino where he and his daughter Gugu where our guests. He remembered all the details including the gift we gave him, as well as having to leave early to get to Soccer City for a World Cup game that night.
What did you talk about?
The initial conversation led us to talk about my children, Matthew and Emily who were on the flight with my wife Tarryn and myself. He showed interest in them, and asked what we were doing. He then chatted about his children, including a throw-away comment: ‘I’m sure you know my most famous son, Duduzane’! That was the closest we got to any political discussion.
One of the most memorable moments was when my son Matthew shared his Easter eggs with Zuma, and in return Zuma shared his mints and Pringles with us. Incidentally he discovered after asking for Pringles from the cabin staff that he couldn’t find his wallet. A lady on the opposite side of the aisle was very quick to offer to pay for him, which she did! He also told me he had spent the previous day at the home of the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and that he was on his way to Nkandla. He was happy to chat to anyone who stopped by, and he hung around for photo’s after the plane had landed. The atmosphere around him and his bodyguards was very relaxed.
Why didn’t you confront him on political issues?
I realise that everyone has their opinion of Jacob Zuma, but in the moment of meeting him, and knowing that there are 50 minutes next to him to get through, offering my opinion on his leadership of the country wasn’t something I was going to do. It immediately occurred to me that there were eyes on us, and that I’d be very quickly removed and replaced with a bodyguard if things started going down. And to be honest, what good would come from me giving him a long lecture. The country has a formal system for that.
I always enjoy being on kulula, but this was one flight I wasn’t ready for! I can’t wait to see who I’ll land up sitting next to on my home :)
As Zuma left my 6-year-old son asked him when he will return to Johannesburg. He said he would phone him and they would co-ordinate schedules to make sure they’re on the same flights back…
Well done to kulula who were quick to put this great ad out this week:
And then this one…