Kenny Kunene might be a controversial figure and to some little more than a big spender. But he has often shown that he holds South Africa close to his heart - this come across most strongly in an open letter he wrote to President Jacob Zuma. In the letter Kunene admits he likes to spend money and is often used as an example of “crass materialism”. But, as he rightly points out, at least he is spending his own money and not the taxpayers’.
From here Kunene holds no punches, declaring his disappointment and at one point even saying the president behaves like a monster. He laments how villagers have to walk kilometers dusty roads past his huge Nkandla estate, which has a private clinic, just to find health care. He points at the Gupta influence and notes how Zuma drops people who helped him in the past. He also mentions how everyone thought Zuma would be a unifying force, but instead has made the ANC more divided than ever.
The best line has to be quoted: “When even your Kenny Kunenes start thinking a guy is wasting money shamelessly, you should know how bad it is.”
Kunene laments how the ANC has changed and says Zuma is stripping it of its last shreds of integrity: “I love the ANC, or what it's supposed to be, but I don't love your ANC.”
Here is the full letter, as published on IOL:
Dear President Jacob Zuma...
I'm writing this because I've never been more disappointed with the ANC you lead. I was once your fervent supporter, I attended some of those night vigils during your trials, and, like many, I believed you would be the force for change the youth and the poor desperately need in our country. Like many others, I donated to your cause when I was called on, and allowed my facilities to be used for ANC and Youth League meetings, sometimes for unusual meetings where your political comeback was planned.
You may wonder what qualifies me to make any kind of political comment. As everyone knows, I'm just a socialite and a businessman, but it's also no secret I am a hobbyhorse for politicians to ride whenever they want to criticise "crass materialism" and the decay of morals. It's true, I like to spend, and I'm not an angel, but unlike politicians I'm not spending taxpayers' money. My real point is that, as a socialite and a businessman, I meet many people, including politicians. When they speak to your face, Mr President, they tell you your imperial clothes are very stylish. When they talk to me, and feel they are safe from your army of spies, most of them admit that you, the emperor, have no clothes.
The Gupta issue alone should be the last straw for many South Africans. But the extent of how much the Gupta family controls you, and by implication this country, has not even begun to be understood. It's amazing how terrified most people in the ANC are to speak about this reality, because they truly fear you. Even if you're not in government, tenders are used to inspire fear among people of influence. Thank God my livelihood is not dependent on tenders. I'll save you the trouble of trying to find out if I have any tenders so you can cut me out of them. I don't have any.
You show no loyalty even to those who kept you out of prison. After the Shaiks and Julius Malema, the Guptas must know that you can drop them faster than they could drop your name. In your quest for self-preservation, you have become heartless.
The reason I supported you and your campaign is because you were marketed to us as someone who would unify us and get rid of the politics of fear, but today there's more fear and more division in the ANC than ever before. In public you smile and laugh, but in truth you behave like a monster, a tyrant who will target perceived enemies ruthlessly, and because of that fear few dare to speak openly. We'd have had yet another Cabinet reshuffle if your wings had not been clipped a little in Mangaung.
Of course, I am not so naive as to blame everything regrettable that happens in the ANC on you. But in my home province, the Free State, the premier, Ace Magushule, imitates your behaviour and even seems to be trying to outdo you in being entangled with the Guptas. He learnt it from you. He thinks its okay to blow R40-million (or R140-million, others say) on a website. It's not a great website either, by the way. When even your Kenny Kunenes start thinking a guy is wasting money shamelessly, you should know how bad it is. Of course, we'd all like to know where that money really went.
This is not what the ANC is or should be. We thought it was bad enough with the Shaiks - but who could have predicted your, and therefore our, wholesale nationalisation by the Guptas?
Even your immediate community, your neighbours in Nkandla, have to walk past your ridiculously overpriced palace donated to you by a once-unsuspecting public, knowing how you have your own private clinic they cannot use and their children must play in the dusty streets among the stones, while your compound has an astroturf sports field that cost the taxpayer R3.5-million and costs R100 000 a month to maintain. How is fake grass a part of security upgrades?
Everyone knows the Public Protector's report will find damning evidence of what went on there - but something must be said now already, in case you find a way to shut her up too.
It's no wonder the ANC lost the vote in Nkandla. If the people who know you best, the place you are from and where you occupy tribal land, do not trust you enough to vote for you, why should the rest of us?
This ANC is no longer the ANC of John Langa Dube, Oliver Tambo and other illustrious names. I'm also getting tired of hearing about how the ANC is bigger than any individual.
There are those who are stubbornly loyal to the ANC, as if it's some kind of marriage, who keep the faith that some day the party will return to its roots. But even if they're my friends, I can't enthusiastically join in with the declarations of those who say they will die in coffins wrapped in ANC colours, no matter what, as my former business partner Gayton McKenzie once said to me.
Mr President, I don't want to be one of those who tell you in fear that you have clothes on, when it's obvious you are completely exposed. I know the dogs will be set on me for saying this, but you have been naked for longer than most of us were willing to admit. And you're now stripping the ANC of the last shred of its integrity. The world laughs at us.
I love the ANC, or what it's supposed to be, but I don't love your ANC. For those of us who care, the question now is, as Vladimir Lenin asked: "What is to be done?" - The Star
* Kenny Kunene is a South African businessman. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.