When communist Vavi meets Mr. Sushi Kunene

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi took on businessman Kenny Kunene for allegedly having spent seven hundred thousand rand on his bash party last week, saying the latter was a member of the “predatory elite” for as a Black Economic Employment-type he, Kunene, well managed to “blow up to R700, 000 in one night on parties”. And like former president Thabo Mbeki used to attacking his critics on The ANC Today newsletter, Kunene, too, in turn hit back at Vavi, right where it hurts most, or sort of.

According to a media report, Vavi’s comments that rich people “blow up (their) R700, 000 in one night on parties” and accusing them as “predatory elite” were understood as reference to Kunene. This after a City Press newspaper report alleged that Kunene had spent such an amount of money on his 40th birthday party attended by among others: Zizi Kodwa, comedian David Kau, DJ Sbu, Big Nuz, L’vovo and DJ Tira, Khanyi Mbau, and “many (other) filthy rich BEE men and women”.

Vavi’s comments – that it is “sight of these parties” where “sushi (is) served from the bodies of half-naked ladies”, a where they “display their wealth, often secured by questionable methods, that turns my stomach” – have also been made worse by the report saying “everything looked like a scene from MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, except that this scene was what Metro FM’s Fistas Mixwell called ‘My Super Sweet 40th’”.

For someone like Kunene who has “never” celebrated his birthday when he was growing up, it is understandable – or at least I understand it – that he had to spend a lot of money and not a little to not only celebrate his biggest birthday ever but that it is was his 40th birthday celebrate, a birthday celebrated once in a lifetime. And he certainly did not want to be left behind. Heck, who would? Vavi, maybe?

Having said that I however am not seriously sure if he really had to spend that much money – seven hundred thousand rand alone (or maybe even more than that?) because if he really is that “filthy rich” surely he could have decided to rather help someone unfortunate or less advantaged than he is as Victor Dlamini thinks the richest should do, if not expected to help where there is a need in the society.

When the news of the seven hundred thousand rand worth of party celebration first broke, Kunene said his grandfather has “taught” him that if he is to invite people (and very filthy and ones in this case) to an event he sure better make sure that “they get the best”. And the best indeed they got just as he had provided them. This can be seen from “fancy sports cars” belonging to his guests that were littered at the hostel entrance; the presence of 66 bottles of Dom Pérignon, 36 bottles of Cristal and 32 bottles of 18-year-old Chivas Regal; the launch of the new Ed Hardy energy drink at the party; and that alcohol alone cost about five hundred thousand rand, according to the newspaper report.

Kunene is not only (filthy?) rich but that he is a former teacher, had spent six years in the Free State’s Grootvlei prison for fraud and is now among the senior executives at the Central Rand Gold mining company, according to media reports. So at least we now know where he got his riches from (fraud maybe?) and that he’s now working hard enough and has pretty much earned his wealth unlike some politicians, Vavi included, who are being paid by union membership fees of millions of hard-working and low-paid workers.

In his attack to Vavu, Kunene is quoted as saying that if the former so much cared about the poor – something he claims every time he opens his mouth – he should sommer stop wearing his “high-collar designer shirts”.  Tell ‘em! He further asked why Vavi could not sell his would to live in a shack. “Why don’t you sell your house and live in a shack. Why don’t you stop meeting in top-class restaurants to hold court on the suffering of the masses? Kunene is quoted as saying.

In a letter responding to Vavi’s comment, Kunene admitted that indeed there is “definitely corruption in South Africa; there is cronyism, nepotism, bribery, but criticised Vavi that “everything else that rolls off your tongue like a rap sheet from a police printer”.

“There’s so much of it, in fact, that I can only wonder why you suddenly feel the need to talk about one birthday party as if it has anything to do with your particular form of social revolution or the principles of the struggle. You say that my so-called R700000 party is a “corruption of morality” and that I’m “spitting in the face of the poor”. I should not have to defend what I spend my money on – a huge milestone in my life – when it’s honest money spent on honest fun.”

You are no stranger to the good life, said Kunene in the letter, as you had a lavish wedding two years ago, with horse-drawn carriages no less. “You remind me of what it felt like to live under apartheid: you are telling me, a black man, what I can and cannot do with my life.”

Kunene said white people threw big parties every day when he was a poor young black man and that they still do today and there is nothing wrong with that [in the eyes of Vavi]. He said them are my friends, that he looks up to them.

In celebrating his success, said Kunene, as he did with this talked-about party, he did not have to hide his money “in fear of what people like you will say”. “I want my life to inspire people to go into business, so they can create jobs for others”, he said.

Kunene said a party like his was not “a place for [Vavi]”. And despite this, he criticised Vavi for having been “only too happy to attend Robert Gumede’s R50-million wedding held in full view of the poorest of the poor”. “You went without complaint. Must we conclude that lavish parties are okay, as long as you are invited to them? asks Kunene.

Kunene said Vavi spoke of his party “as if [Kunene] only care about the elite. “I am having a follow-up party this coming weekend for the underprivileged and poor, who are also part of my life, and always will be,” said Kunene.

Kunene continues to hit back at Vavi’s comments about his wealth:

During the World Cup you were sitting in elite air-conditioned suites. What were you eating there? What were you drinking? We didn’t begrudge you a good time, we didn’t mutter about it to the media. We didn’t say you were spitting in the faces of the poor.

You became a political leader late in your life. Your comments smack of bitterness because if it’s true that you only live on your salary then you will only be a millionaire, maybe a billionaire, in your next life.

You are narrow-minded and still think that it’s a sin for black people to drive sports cars or be millionaires at a young age. You make my stomach turn.

You often speak of my wealth and that of others as acquired in “questionable ways”. I have never hidden my criminal past. I have been to more than 2000 schools telling kids that they can drive sports cars, live in luxury houses, wear designer clothes and throw big parties – not through criminal acts, such as selling drugs, robbery, fraud, or contract killing.

If you advocate your particular lifestyle as the only virtuous lifestyle, how many of these kids do you think you could possibly inspire to make the right choices?

South Africa was very interested in the story of how your wife was being paid by SA Quantum to market to the unions. Despite the fact that SA Quantum actually bribed the Mail & Guardian to keep the story quiet (Mail & Guardian 1/4/2010), you were very glib in dismissing any corruption in the matter.

Perhaps the next time I feel like throwing a party I should just tell journalists that my wife is paying for it. Maybe that will shut you up.

I am self-made. I don’t hide behind my wife’s businesses.

In conclusion, I want to correct your misapprehension that my party cost R700000. It cost more. And no, in case you were wondering, you won’t be invited to the next one either. In fact, the next time people are invited to my party, you can go hang or go to hell.

Itjo, what a letter indeed!

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