Controversial businessman and sushi king Kenny Kunene has cancelled any plans to hold sushi parties amid a storm of protest by the ANC, its women’s league, Cosatu and gender activists.
A contrite Kunene said on Tuesday it was never his intention to associate the eating of sushi off women’s half naked bodies with the ANC. He accepted the party’s condemnation of the practice, and said he understood its reasons.
“Therefore, I will not be throwing or attending any further such sushi parties as I have nothing but respect for the leadership of the ANC and the guiding principles of the movement.
“Were it not for the work and struggle of these ANC leaders, my leaders, the money that black businesspeople have made since 1994 would not have been possible, and this also applies to me,” said Kunene in a statement sent via his iPad.
Kunene was responding to the outrage that was triggered after photographs were published in the media showing the tycoon eating sushi off a model’s naked torso at a launch party in Cape Town on Saturday night.
On Monday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe condemned Kunene’s sushi parties, adding that the ANC was not in the business of nightclubs but was “a revolutionary movement”.
At the party at the Waterfront Studios on Saturday night, Kunene - dressed in a white suit with a silk scarf - took part in the sushi party trick, which is an ancient Japanese custom, while serving Champagne to a young model who was lying on the bonnet of a white Maserati.
Some of Kunene’s guests snapped photos with their cellphone cameras.
ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, who had attended the pre-launch party, defended Kunene, claiming that his new club, ZAR Lounge, to be opened in Green Point later this month, “belonged to the ANC”.
This claim was slapped down by Mantashe on Monday, prompting Malema to backtrack, saying he had been misquoted.
In his statement, Kunene said: “Julius Malema has been a tireless supporter of black businesspeople, especially those wanting to go into businesses where black people historically don’t have a presence.
“He has encouraged us to continue our work even when we wanted to give up.”
He reiterated that ZAR was a “private entity” with no political affiliations.
“It welcomes people from all races and political persuasions to come and enjoy a good time defined by style, glamour and the best things in life.
“We encourage anyone to do as Mr Malema has done and treat ZAR as their own,” said Kunene.
Kunene also said he respected Cape Town’s liquor by-laws after Malema had claimed Premier Helen Zille wanted to close down all nightclubs in Cape Town.
Some of the other guests who attended the lavish party on Saturday included ANC NEC member Tony Yengeni, actor Somizi Mhlongo and wayward footballer Katlego Mphela.
While serving time for fraud, Kunene was one of several prisoners who exposed corrupt warders at Grootvlei Prison in the Free State. Following his release, he ventured into motivational speaking at high schools, worked for a mining company, and started the ZAR nightclub in Sandton.
The ANC Women’s League yesterday weighed in on the controversy, describing the act of eating sushi off women’s bodies as “appaling”.
“The African National Women’s League (ANCWL) strongly condemns the despicable practice of serving of sushi on bodies of half naked South African women.
“We call for an immediate stop to this foreign practice because it is an attack on the bodily integrity and dignity of women in our country,” said ANCWL spokesperson Edna Molewa.
“We are appalled by this derogatory act of serving sushi on bodies of half naked women.
“We cannot allow such an insulting practice to be associated with the ANC or its cadres,” the league said.
In November last year a similar act at Kunene’s 40th birthday party, which was rumoured to have cost R700 000, landed him in hot water with Cosatu and gender activists.
Patrick Godana, manager at the Sonke Gender Network, said he welcomed Kunene’s reversal on the issue.
“On behalf of men that are sober in their minds, we welcome the remorse that has been shown by Mr Kunene.
“Young men in this country look up to him and this has caused confusion amongst them, especially from the emerging black elite,” said Godana.
Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town says it will investigate claims that liquor was sold at the Waterfront Studios venue.
Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said a liquor control officer would investigate to ascertain whether liquor had been sold at the party.
Should this be the case, it could scupper ZAR’s plans to apply for a liquor licence when the club officially launches on February 14 at the Cape Royale Hotel in Green Point.
“We’re awaiting an affidavit from one of the guests. If he (Kunene) has transgressed the national legislation it might be mentioned to the (provincial) liquor board,” said Smith.
The City of Cape Town would also be inspecting the new premises to ensure that staff were informed of the liquor laws. - Cape Times