Zoli Kunene, a towering man, and a larger-than-life lawyer has passed away after a long life furthering the cause of human rights and black entrepreneurship in South Africa. He was one-fifth of the legendary Kunene brothers who spent years building up black ownership in business, long before legislation lent a helping hand.
Zoli, Keith, Dudu, Zanosi, and Menzi Kunene all ended up in business together with a wide portfolio of companies carrying out everything from canning Coca-Cola to selling Daimler-Chrysler cars.
Zoli Kunene trained as a lawyer in the days when it was rare for a man of his background to do so. He fought many human rights cases in the dim days of apartheid, in South Africa, and had unrivalled knowledge of the names of all the black lawyers working in and around Johannesburg in his era, no matter how small.
“There were so few of us, in those days, that you knew every black lawyer in a 100-hundred- mile radius!” he used to laugh.
The Kunene brothers’ business empire began way back in 1978 when Keith acquired a sub-lease to sell fresh milk in Vosloorus east of Johannesburg. Kunene Bros. Holdings took over a nearby liquor licence from the government, in 1983, and also began wholesaling Coca Cola. The latter business was to lead to the creation of Coca-Cola Fortune the second largest bottling and distribution company in South Africa.
As the brothers worked hard, in concord, they built up a robust stable of companies to include a financial services company and defence and security outfit.
Zoli Kunene, was also active in public and corporate life. He was an honorary colonel in the South African National Defence Force and chairman of the South African Aerospace Maritime and Defence Industries Association. He was also past president of the Defence Industries Interest Group of South Africa and served as Chairman of Denel.In the corporate world he was chairman of Grintek Ewation and a director of Cell C.
“Zoli was a keen golfer and a larger than life figure at the annual father & son golf day; he will be missed by all. A great man, dynamic leader, family man, friend, and above all a human being who cared for all those around him. He will be missed,” says Rakesh Wahi the Chairman CMA Investment Holdings and a close friend of Zoli Kunene.