Defiant businessman Kenny Kunene says the wealthy have the right to spend their money as they please, without fear of being bullied.
Now known as the Sushi King, Kunene told City Press on Friday that he made his millions in mining and venture capital after his release from Grootvlei prison in 2003.
He is adamant that there is nothing crass about spending R700 000 on a party and eating sushi off the body of a half-naked woman.
“In the civilised world, there are men and women called models. I paid the women to model. This thing of a human sushi platter happens all over the world. If it doesn’t happen in South Africa, then I’m a trendsetter.
“I am a man of style. I look anywhere where there is style and try to be different. Some people play golf, I party. That’s how I relax. So who am I exploiting?”
It is a mystery how a man who did prison time for fraud could become so rich in a few short years.
The father of three says he and his business partner Gayton McKenzie, whom he met in jail, started off by setting up a publishing company. They later sold it and got into mining and, later, established an investment consulting company.
Kunene is a director of companies that include Afri-Oz Resources, African Australian Minerals and Energy, Dartingo Trading 213, and Dirbyn Investment Holdings.
He says his companies invest in mining and fuel in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
The 40-year-old drew the ire of Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi for spending R700?000 on his birthday bash.
Vavi said the behaviour of members of the new elite was an insult and amounted to spitting in the face of the poor.
Kunene says: “Why should a black person, when successful, be viewed as having made his money from tenders, or through questionable means?
“(Vavi) doesn’t know me, yet he thinks I’m a tenderpreneur.”
Kunene keeps a flat in Sandton and a house in Welkom, where he grew up. He won’t say where his apartment is located, but it is apparently at the exclusive Sandton Emperor in Morningside, where flats cost an average of R16 million.
He also keeps a permanent room at the Radisson Blu Hotel, where the ZAR lounge he co-owns with McKenzie is located.
He refuses to say how many sports cars he owns, save that his favourite brands are Porsche and Lamborghini. His fleet includes a Mercedes SLK 55, an Audi R8, a Porsche Cayenne GTS, a Porsche Panamera and a Porsche?911.
“During apartheid, (wealthy) black people were afraid to show their money.
Vavi is saying we must regard ourselves as third- and fourth-class citizens.”
Kunene says he turned to the life of crime and hustling at a young age to make a living. He used to move gold for smugglers in his small mining hometown.
Even after graduating from university he continued with various criminal activities, mainly fraud, because his teacher’s salary was not enough to support his extended family.
“I had dreams. I looked up to honourable people such as Patrice Motsepe and Cyril Ramaphosa, and said to myself, ‘if they can do it so can I’.”
His public spat with Vavi seems to have earned him more friends than detractors. On Friday alone he got more than 150 friendship requests on Facebook, and messages of support.
“Some of us really look up to you. Keep that fire burning.
Haters will always be there (and) I’m sure you know that otherwise you wouldn’t (be where) you are right now.
What inspires me most (is that) you are a billionaire, and no cent from tenders.
You rock,” Ntsiki Ben Ntuli wrote on Kunene’s page this week.