A chat with ‘Sushi King’

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iol pic nt kenny11_CITY_E1 INLSA Notorious "sushi king" Kenny Kunene

The multi-millionaire “sushi king” also likes girls with their clothes on, apparently, because when I arrive at his swanky ZAR club on the 7th floor of Sandton’s Radisson hotel, he’s smoothly schmoozing with two glamorous young women hanging on his every word.

I had a feeling I’d find him here, in his silver-and-gold themed emporium of pleasure overlooking Sandton on all sides, because although Kenny Kunene is known as a mining executive, his passion is partying and entertainment - fulltime. Still, though he likes doing business in his club, very coolly attired in his ZAR T-shirt, designer jeans, patent leather shoes without socks and white-framed shades, there’s no sign of champagne, the tipple synonymous with his name, anywhere near him. Just bottled water, and glistening surrounds bathed in the afternoon light.

“I am launching myself as the king of entertainment,” he declares, adding: “If you love something, you must do it, and I love entertainment.” His ZAR club opens on February 14 in the Cape Royale luxury hotel in Cape Town, he says, and “before June” in one of two top Durban venues being considered, one of them “a five star hotel”.

And while having models adorned only with sushi is off the table at these parties - “it’ll have to be in private,” he grins - he intends putting on a “spectacle” of some sort every time. Would these spectacles include a strip show? He pauses to think. “No, that’s been done. I want to stand out,” he says. There’ll always be beautiful women around, of course, a luxury he points out he was deprived of during his six years in prison.

Event planning would describe Kunene’s new limelit role more accurately then. “I did research on the sushi models before I decided on them. I wanted something different, and as South Africans we do business with the Japanese, so I thought it was a good idea. Also, I happen to really enjoy sushi. It’s the only Asian food I like, because it’s real fish,” he says. For the next run of “spectacles” his ZAR club team is doing similar research on “concepts”, on which he’ll have “final say”. “The idea is for everybody to remember my parties. Up to now Joburg celebrity parties have all been the same. You just drink alcohol and that’s it,” he says.

The “go large” entertainment bug has been in Kunene since he was a boy. “I grew up poor, but my late grandfather (he was raised by his grandparents and unemployed mother in Kutlwanong township near Odendaalsrus in the OFS) always insisted that if you invite people, you don’t go half way. You provide the best of food, drinks and music,” he says. “I’ve been in entertainment since high school, since prison actually,” he continues, explaining that he’d organise “parties” for his fellow inmates, with music and dancing and soft-drinks, to gain favour.

As for the addition of sushi models, although he’s bowed to ANC pressure to end their appearance at his public parties, he’s unapologetic about having hired them, and disputes the ANC Women’s League’s contention that it was “an attack on the bodily integrity and dignity of women in our country”. “They are acting as though the women were victims, but I had men too. There were two men and two women models at last Saturday’s party,” he says.

He jocularly repeats his cheeky tease to another newspaper earlier in the week. “I would have had Indian and Chinese girls in Durban. I just wanted to change the plates to see how the sushi tastes from different plates”. He brazenly embroiders this with: “I had black girls in Joburg, white girls in Cape Town, and I was hoping to eat sushi off Indian girls in Durban. I would love to eat sushi off Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj (hip hop star)… there are too many beautiful women to choose from. I still want to try Debra Patta, because there’s always something fishy about her reporting,” he smiles in anticipation of my arched eyebrow.

Oddly perhaps, the 40-year-old Kunene claims his excesses don’t extend to party drugs like cocaine and ecstacy. Master of the rhyming one-liner, he says: “I don’t sell dope, I push hope.” “In prison I was doing dagga. You need drugs in prison to get through it. You need to sleep. But I don’t want anything to do with drugs now. I hate anything associated with drugs,” he says.

About his friendship with ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, he’s equally unequivocal. “Julius is a leader who doesn’t get blown by the wind like other leaders. He is principled and represents his constituency, those young people who don’t have a voice, very well. When the youth sit down they are not in suits and ties, discussing what the suits and ties are discussing. Julius understands that. I respect his brains and I respect his leadership,” he says.

It was Malema who for once served his party by convincing Kunene to cease his sushi model craze. “He gave me a call and asked me to apply my mind in a way that would accommodate the party’s position. It was respectful, as opposed to last year when I was being addressed like an animal by Vavi (Zwelinzima, Cosatu general secretary), with everybody speculating on my income,” says Kunene, adding “I am not Cosatu. I am not a worker”. He stresses however that he “was born ANC and will die ANC”. “Just because I got rebuked doesn’t mean I change my allegiance,” he says.

Kunene’s Blackberry goes off a few times during our chat but he dutifully switches it off. He’s in demand, and seems to thrive on the attention. “I’m being interviewed by the New York Times this afternoon,” he says, donning his shades again. The glamour girls who melted away re-appear, asking him if he’d like anything. But his mind is still on business. “Give me your card,” he says, “and I’ll let you know about the plans for the ZAR clubs. And by the way, you’re welcome to the club anytime”.

I have to admit that it’s an invitation I may well take up, out of curiosity but also to indulge my own sybaritic bent. - Tribune


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Go Kenny, wrote

IOL Comments
05:10pm on 7 February 2011
IOL Comments

If you do not want to read this, then don't, period! There is something to report in everything as the articles cater for different peoples reading pleasure. So you "egocentric and narcissistic", Helen hater, Marcel, Nico and Anonymous (Kenny shud feed you), go and read Huisgenoot, Beeld, etc... if you can't handle current affairs and matters of interest on IOL.

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Sebedi Tshite, wrote

IOL Comments
03:57pm on 7 February 2011
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O topdog mfana, ayobbaa-yooooooooo!!!!!!!!

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Zweli Vavi, wrote

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03:20pm on 7 February 2011
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Hey you white ** ******** stop critisizing Kenny,didn't know that he is a member of the ANC. Dis man must spend his money the way he want to spend it, your fore fathers spent it like at adult clubs with young girls, who cared, now is our time!! Zille you gonna retire soon just like Toni Leon, this is no joke, we just here to frustrate DA, we want you to forget your purpose and keep on policing the ANC, Viva!!

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rufie, wrote

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01:18pm on 7 February 2011
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i wonder how many of kennys friends were his friends when he was in prison? mesuspects zero. all this low class clown has done is somehow got in with some corrupt anc officals which arnt hard to find as 98% of them play on that team. now he is just buying money w****s like that kani embow person and nolene (i wunnabe oprah) nosango. shame kenny....such an insignificant person trying so hard to fit in with the main crowd. shame. what a joke you are.

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:20pm on 7 February 2011
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please man help the poor kids

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:21am on 7 February 2011
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What a load of rubbish. He talks nonsense and dresses badly. If you make your own money, then spend it as you will but we don't need to hear about it. Why don't you feed your fellow, starving comrades instead of your dubious friends.

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emmphive, wrote

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11:19am on 7 February 2011
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Kenny is the Man. Eff what you heard. And Lionel they called secret socks muppet.

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:26am on 7 February 2011
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He could start a new venture, and call it the Autofelatio Club - he's so in love with himself he can give lessons to those who don't know what it means. Mamparalema could be the CEO.

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Lionel, wrote

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06:37am on 7 February 2011
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Just love the deion of his cool dress, ZAR T-Shirt, designer jeans, patent leather shoes and to crown it all no socks. Just shows with all the millions, you cannot by class.

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Nico Fourie, wrote

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06:57pm on 6 February 2011
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Why would this be news....this man have the money..all the means needed to live a life like this...no problem...I like my sushi on a plate...hey..it takes all sorts to make this world of our go round !!!

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marcel, wrote

IOL Comments
01:44pm on 6 February 2011
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Kunene, Malema, who are these people and why does anyone care ??? These people are so insignificant, here today gone tomorrow and nobody would notice, so can we write articles about stuff that is actually of interest please.

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:51pm on 6 February 2011
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Helen, why are you glamorizing and romanticising this thug?? Do you not have anything better and more constructive to write about? A bit of the old YOU mag flavour coming out here...............

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IntegrityRules, wrote

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12:01pm on 6 February 2011
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This chop is a disgrace to South Africa. He and Male(nem)a are so egocentric and narcissistic their moral compass is stuck up their @sses.

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