Kenny Kunene Went from Criminal to Loving Dad and Formidable Businessman, Life Has Been a Wild Ride

Kenny Kunene Went from Criminal to Loving Dad and Formidable Businessman, Life Has Been a Wild Ride

It's Kenny Kunene's 51st birthday today and Briefly News takes a deep dive into this controversial yet successful businessman's journey.

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Kunene has lived a colourful life full of ups and downs and in the process given South Africans some memorable moments. His life is also an example that anything is possible, even if things started out rough.

businessman, criminal, success, sushi king
Kenny is celebrating his 51st birthday and to mark the occasion, we take a look at his life. Image: Kenny Kunene/Instagram
Source: Instagram

Kunene went from being a former teacher to ex-convict, but he eventually turned his life around and ventured into business. In his journey, Kunene also entered politics and took on the role of Secretary General of the Patriotic Alliance.

His past is littered with many controversies, such as selling alcohol after work when he was a teacher and being involved in robberies and fraud.

Today, he's a loving father of five, a husband and the owner of several businesses. His life has truly been one crazy ride so far, so let's take a closer behind the man Saffas love to refer to as 'Sushi King'.

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Early life

Kenny Kunene was born on 21 October, 1970 in the Free State's mining town of Odendaalsrus. The 51-year-old was raised by strong females, including his mother and grandmother.

His mum served as an Evangelist and faith healer while his grandmother was the sole breadwinner of the family and worked as a midwife. He never met his father.

During his schooling years, Kenny attended Marobe Primary School and Rearabetswe Secondary School. For his tertiary education he attended Vista University, now known as the Central University of Technology. He studied a teaching degree and this led to a career as an English and history teacher.

Criminal history

In 1997, Kenny served six years in prison after being convicted of running a Ponzi scheme. In prison, he proved to be very influential among his fellow inmates and organised parties to uplift everyone.

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Life after prison

After his release, he started working at Calculus Private School in Bloemfontein. He stayed in contact with a former inmate known as Gayton McKenzie and they developed an advertising business known as X Concepts Publishing to promote Gayton's prison biography.

Gayton was a motivational speaker and he inspired Kunene to become one too. After this, Kunene secured a job in 2008 as a senior manager of community relations at the Central Rand Gold. He also started becoming more involved in politics.

Career moves

ZAR Club

In 2011, Kunene opened the controversial and highly publicised club called ZAR, which became synonymous with lavish parties. It hit headlines after the club began hosting 'sushi parties', where guests ate sushi off the bodies of half-naked women.

Yookoo Rides

In 2019, Kenny released a mobile app for vehicle hire services known as Yookoo Rides. The app was developed in 2017 and hopes to rival Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify).

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Africa News Global

Kunene is the co-owner of Africa News Global, which was previously known as Africa News 24-7. It was founded in 2017 by Steve Motale, who is the former editor at The Citizen and Sunday Independent. He convinced Kunene to join as a funder and told News24 it is an "alternative narrative to the mainstream media". He says it provides a voice to the voiceless and it doesn't choose sides when covering various topics.


It may be a surprise to many that his first involvement in politics was in the 1980s at the young age of 15. He was involved in the student uprising in the Free State and because of this, he was imprisoned by apartheid police for six months.

As an adult, Kenny joined the EFF for a short period in 2013. He later formed his own political party known as the Patriotic Alliance, where he served as the Secretary-General for a little while.

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Kenny was first married to Mathato Kunene but they divorced in 2012. However, during his marriage to Mathato, he also dated other women, including radio personality Zama Ngcobo and actress Sophie Ndaba.

Kenny is now married to Nonkululeko Whitney Mhlanga and the pair have two children together, a boy named Remo and a girl named Reemona. Kenny also has three other kids from his previous marriage. The couple welcomed their second baby in 2019 and he had the following to say about his baby girl:

“I always count my blessings. To me, Whitney is not only a loving wife but the biggest blessing God could have ever given me. The birth of Reemona is another cherry on top.”

Like her brother Remo, Kenny promised that his girl would epitomise fashion and style, albeit in pink.

“Reemona will be loved the same way we love all our children,” Kenny said.

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Kenny is the owner of a record label known as New Money Record. In 2012, he released an album under the label called ZAR Sushi Mix, which was a compilation of house tracks.

An interesting fact was that in 2010, it was reported that he was bringing some internationally celebrated musicians to South Africa and Zimbabwe, such as Nicki Minaj and Drake, among others. But this did not happen.

However, he did manage to bring over other massive names such as Ciara, DJ Scratch, Lil Kim, Timbaland and Fat Joe.

Net Worth

The businessman is estimated to be worth about R260 million as of 2021 - this includes his assets, money and income. He managed to build his wealth thanks to his entrepreneurial skills and establishing many businesses that provided him with a steady streams of income from multiple sources.

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His home is truly opulent with unique architectural designs that span three-storey's high. It has large beautiful windows to let in natural light and almost has a Zen-like quality to it. The exterior boasts gorgeous greenery that adds an earthiness to the home. It is believed to be worth an exorbitant R20 million.

Source: Briefly News

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