Zoli Kunene was a pioneer in business and human relations. He championed the cause of the workers. He was a pillar of the family business alongside his siblings. He remained humble in all his business achievements. Above all, remained a resolute family man pursuing the welfare of his entire family.
We will miss you dearly Papa Zoli. Untill we meet again. Rest in power.
Nhlanhla Rigney Kunene or Zoli as he was fondly known was born on 12 October but his ID stated 7 February 1953 at Stirtonville (now Reiger Park) in the East Rand. With the proclamation of the Group Areas Act the family was moved, with the rest of the black residents of Stirtonville to Vosloorus township in 1964. At Vosloorus he attended Hlabahlangene Primary school (now Fortune Kunene Primary School) where his father was the principal. He then went on to Ilinge High School and Amanzimtoti for the rest of his schooling.
With dreams of being a lawyer he was accepted as a student at Fort Hare University in Alice. With an unrelenting passion for human rights, Zoli was very active in student politics at university. Although he got to final year, he never obtained his degree due to the volatile situation in the country, constant student boycotts and he was amongst the activists who were arrested. This didn’t stop him though from championing the rights of the oppressed, which led to him being a leader in COSATU, between 1980 and 1984 he was legal unit co-ordinator for the Council of Unions of SA (CUSA) and the forerunner of COSATU.
He started Kunene Brothers with his 4 brothers 1978 as a milk distribution business before the brothers acquired a liquor license. They then established the Coca Cola wholesale business in 1983. This led to the creation of Coca Cola Fortune, the second largest bottling and distribution company in South Africa.
He was a towering legend in business who has spent his life furthering Black Entrepreneurship. Zoli was a trusted leader and served on numerous Boards and pursued business interests in industries such as Telecommunications, Arms, Ammunition, Aircrafts and Technology.
Amongst other, he was Chairman of Grintek Ewation (Pty) LTD, Chairman of Denel (and the only Chairman to turn Denel into a profitable business). He was also Director of Cell C. He was Chairman of SA Aerospace Maritime and Defence Industries Association (AMD) and also past President of the Defense Industries Group of SA (DIIGSA)
One of his prides was that he served as Honorary Colonel of SANDF. Zoli was also an avid golfer, traveller and wine connoisseur.
He is survived by wife Mathili, son Maswazi, daughter in-laws Mashianyane and Cleola and his beloved grand-children Zamangwane, Zolani, Khanyisa and Matshidiso. (His son Siyanda passed away in 2019).
Acknowledgements from the Family
We would like to thank you all as family from the bottom of our hearts for all the emotional, spiritual and physical support.
May God continue to bless you all and hold you in the palm of his hand.