No sushi for Kenny Kunene’s new party

The noise is not just going to come from Julius Malema in the run-up to next year's national elections. Juju's former party pals, ex-convicts Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene, have thrown themselves into the launch of a newly registered national political party, the Patriotic Alliance.

The business partners were once serious crowd-pullers, whose personalised number plates on their luxury vehicles, when parked together, summed up their attitude: "X-con" and "So What."

Sushi king Kunene thought nothing of spending R700 000 on his 40th birthday party, and the pair drew criticism from the ANC for hosting lavish events, awash with champagne and with sushi arranged on the bodies of almost nude models.

Their new political venture will be a more sober affair. "At the conference on Saturday [November 30], there will not even be one small bottle of champagne," McKenzie said this week. "No sushi or models. We are on a new path and we are very serious about what we are doing."

McKenzie said he had to persuade Kunene to quit Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and join the party he was busy founding with others. "I was the one who stole Kenny from the EFF," admitted McKenzie, who is a family man. "I had to convince him to leave the EFF because Kenny has the pull factor."

The Patriotic Alliance has already set up offices in Cape Town, and its interim leaders will be elected at a conference in Paarl in the Western Cape this weekend.

'A junior ANC branch'
Infuriated to hear the Mail & Guardian had been asking whether the Patriotic Alliance was, as he put it, "a junior ANC branch", McKenzie said the notion was ridiculous. He believed the ANC had given "this National Party with lipstick" [the Democratic Alliance] a free ride in the Western Cape.

"I don't want to become a member of Parliament and nor does Kenny," said McKenzie, although he will be eligible to take up a seat as he was released from jail more than five years ago. "We want to work with the people on the ground."

McKenzie said he knew the fact that he spent seven years in jail for two counts of armed robbery would cause a stir in the political arena. A motivational speaker and mining consultant, the businessman has also come under intense scrutiny in the media over his involvement in controversial mining deals with Gold Fields and Central Rand Gold in Johannesburg.

Kunene, who spent six years in jail for fraud, met McKenzie in prison and they teamed up for business ventures on their release in 2003.

McKenzie has been telling his 42 291 Twitter followers (as of Thursday this week) that his shady past is not going to stop him from turning his hand to politics.

"It's not hard to hear the shrieks of protest from people saying it can't be right for a former criminal like myself to become a politician," he posted.

'Friends and people with money'
Although he did not say where the funding will come from to run the party, McKenzie pointed to "friends and people with money", adding that the Patriotic Alliance planned to contest the national elections next year.

Kunene has gamely thrown his weight behind the new party, which still has to outline its policies. The pair claim to have turned their focus to helping to broker peace among gangs on the Cape Flats, which is a far cry from their activities during their extravagant party days.

This year Kunene and McKenzie visited former Hard Livings leader Rashied Staggie at Worcester Prison. Police were not concerned about the visits by the pair to see Staggie, a fighting general in the 26s prison gang. A police source told the M&G the pair had discussed a "new political movement" with Staggie.

McKenzie said he did not know whether Staggie would be encouraged to join the party when he goes on full parole in March next year.

Patriotic Alliance national organiser Saintes van Wyk said the party's membership was growing rapidly. "By last Sunday, we had signed up 432 000 members," said Van Wyk, who laughed heartily when asked whether he too was an ex-con. "This is not provincial political, it is registered nationally, and we are working on the ground in all nine provinces."

'I don't know'
Approached for comment on Kunene's planned party, Malema said: "I don't know what he is doing. I can't comment on things I know nothing about."

So what chance does the Patriotic Alliance stand in the national elections? Dr Piet Croucamp, who teaches politics at the University of Johannesburg, said that smaller parties, particularly those with a provincial focus, were unlikely to garner enough support to get seats in Parliament. "Because the Patriotic Alliance is [currently only] organising in the Cape Flats, it is unlikely to be too effective," he said.

McKenzie, however, said the Cape Flats campaign was just the beginning, and organising would be done around the country. The new party plans to draw in heavyweights from the ANC and the DA. "It will be a vibrant party for the youth of this country … just you wait and see."

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Glynnis Underhill
Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country.

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