Kenny Kunene's brother speaks

By Drum Digital
08 December 2010

It’s hard to imagine the lives of two brothers turning out more differently. One is Kenny Kunene, the tabloid favourite who rubs shoulders with the who’s who of Mzansi and arrives at celebrity-studded events in one of his luxury sports cars. The other is Papi Kunene, who is penniless and jobless and watches his brother’s excess from a distance. “He was born in this house as I was,” Papi (42) says as he looks around his simple living room. “But he’s a changed man now. He doesn’t even visit us anymore. I still love him, though – he’s my kid brother after all.”

It’s clear Papi has an axe to grind and he looks defeated as he talks about his brother with all the excitement of a pallbearer – no pleasure or sense of pride, only sombre words punctuated by rapid-fire bursts of anger.This is a man embittered by years of conflict with his brother – conflict that has become impossible for him to stomach now that “Mr Sushi”, as Kenny’s been dubbed by the media after he notoriously ate raw fish off near-naked women at his lavish 40th birthday party, is rolling in cash.

It’s easy to see why such sibling rivalry should emerge. Kenny spent over R700 000 on his birthday party at his exclusive club Zar in Sandton, north of Jozi, where guests included ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, presidential spokesperson Zizi Kodwa and socialite Khanyi Mbau.

It was a display of wealth that led Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi to call Kenny a “hyena” who “spits in the face of the poor”.

Kenny hit back, saying he was a role model for a new generation and had nothing to be ashamed of. But for his brother, who lives in Kutlwanong in the Free State, such a flash of cash was like a slap in the face. Unemployed since 2003 Papi, who used to be a driver and odd-job man, struggles to support his three children.

“It hurts to see my brother spending so irresponsibly. But what can I do if he decides not to look after his own flesh and blood? It’s his money and he can do whatever he wants with it.”

Kutlwanong, a dustbowl outside the mining dorp of Odendaalsrus, could do with a bit of Kenny’s money. We stop outside a matchbox house and find a group of men and women sitting on benches in the yard, passing around a tin of homebrew. They look at us in stony silence as we ask after Kenny. Then one man in tattered overalls staggers over. “You’re not cops, okay? We don’t want to rat on Kenny,” he says.

That gets the group going and suddenly we’re surrounded by men trying to outdo each other with stories. They call him Can’t Get Kenny and Kenny Majozi for reasons no one can remember and they all want to talk about the huge party he threw at the school to thank his ancestors, friends and township folks in August last year.

“He came in a helicopter for the slaughter of four cows. We didn’t touch sorghum beer that day – we drank only whisky and brandy,” recalls a man with a squint. “It was a sight for sore eyes.” PAPI lives in the house where he says the brothers were raised by their grandparents and unemployed mother. It’s a modest property he shares with his wife and young child and has a red palisade fence facing shacks across the street and a lounge with fake leather sofas and a ball-and-claw cabinet.

Read the full article in DRUM of 16 December 2010

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