Business tycoon Kenny Kunene
Business tycoon Kenny Kunene
Frans Ngcobo says mining giant Central Rand Gold is not delivering on its many promises to the poor. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu
Frans Ngcobo says mining giant Central Rand Gold is not delivering on its many promises to the poor. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Colourful tycoon and sushi king Kenny Kunene boasted that his 40th birthday party cost R1 million – but his promises to uplift poor communities with projects worth R54.2m smell fishy.

His co-executives at mining giant Central Rand Gold (CRG) enjoy equally lavish lifestyles, but they and Kunene haven’t shared a cent with the locals they promised to help in return for supporting CRG’s application for mining rights in exchange for jobs and community upliftment projects.

The Affected Community Elected Representatives feels CRG has reneged on the deal and that is why it is fighting the company. The organisation’s livid secretary, Frans Ngcobo, said: “We are surrounded by poverty everywhere and Kenny is having sushi.”

In 2008, in an agreement with the community, CRG pledged to give them a 10 percent share in the company. Other promises include the creation of thousands of jobs, bursaries for their children and community upliftment projects worth millions within 30 days of CRG being awarded the mining rights.

In a meeting held at Meadowlands High last weekend, one angry resident said: “We need to take this fight to CRG.”

In the agreement, signed two years ago, the company committed to starting a blanket manufacturing project, the Amathuba project, a One Stop Recycling Centre and a jewellery design and manufacturing school.

It promised also to develop George Harrison Park in Langlaagte as a tourist attraction to be run by the local community.

Last week, The Star visited all these projects, but saw little going on.

Meadowlands resident Patrick Molophagi, who heads a community-based organisation for young people, said they wanted an audit to be done into CRG’s community projects.

“They were supposed to give 10 percent of their shares to the community, and some people were given tenders, but it was more a payment to get them to agree and sign anything Kenny wanted,” Molophagi said.

Kunene refused to comment and referred queries to CEO Johan du Toit.

Du Toit said Kunene “has other business interests and I can assure you he hasn’t made his wealth from CRG”.

He also claimed “the company gave 12 students bursaries in 2009 and another 12 in 2010”. The other projects would be ready to roll at the beginning of next year.

The drama started when residents of Orlando East, Orlando West, Diepkloof and Meadowlands in Soweto, Roodepoort, Fleurhof, Bosmont and Riverlea were lured by Kunene and his counterpart, Gayton Mckenzie, to support their application for mining rights several years ago. But now Kunene, Mckenzie and their partners are extremely wealthy, but the angry communities are still waiting.

Yesterday, Du Toit admitted they were aware that some residents were not happy.

He said the company had not started mining for gold, so they had not made a profit.

However, according to financial statements in The Star’s possession, Kunene’s gross salary in March was R150 000 and Mckenzie’s R243 288.46, while Du Toit got R209 726.38.

Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman Zingaphi Jakuja said they were aware of the issues and had requested CRG to explain.

But more than a year later, angry residents have threatened to report CRG to the public protector and to sue.

McKenzie and Kunene joined forces outside prison in 2007, after McKenzie had made a secret video of warders up to no good. The footage was leaked to the media and the two were released on parole in 2006. - The Star