Ganglands

Murder of infamous Cape gang ‘godfather’ sparks fears of revenge attacks

By Don Pinnock 13 December 2019
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Photo: Supplied

Rashied Staggie, the legendary and feared leader of Cape Town’s Hard Livings gang, died in a hail of bullets on Friday morning. Some 24 hours earlier, another Hard Livings leader was killed. There is now a strong possibility of a gang war and revenge assassinations exploding across the Cape Flats.

It’s unusual for gang bosses to live long, but at 58, Rashied Staggie was an exception. He survived his twin brother, Rashaad, who was doused in petrol, set alight and then shot by a Manenberg vigilante mob in Salt River in 1996. Images of him writhing and burning reverberated around the world.

Some years ago, during an interview, Rashied raised his shirt and lowered his trousers to show me nine scars from bullets and knives. “They keep trying, but they’ll never get me,” he said. They finally did. Photographs show at least 11 bullet holes in the windscreen of the silver Toyota Yaris Rashied was driving on Friday, 13 December 2019.

According to police, Staggie was sitting in his vehicle when two unknown suspects emerged, fired several shots at him and fled on foot. According to a SAPS statement, “crime scene experts are currently on the scene combing for clues that could assist the murder investigation. Woodstock police have reinforced deployment in and around the Salt River area.”

The killing has put communities across the Cape Flats on tenterhooks and the police on high alert in anticipation of a gang war that’s likely to follow. The area has murder rates which are almost beyond belief. In May this year,  71 murders were recorded over the payday weekend, with 66 in June, and 46 in July.

The city has one of the highest murder rates in the world. In the year up to April 2019 there were nearly 4,000 in the Western Cape – that’s 69 people killed per 100 000 — double the national average rate recorded last year.

For years the “untouchable” Staggie twins dominated the Cape underworld. When Rashaad was killed, a Manenberg resident said to me: “They should have shot the other one. Rashied is the mad-dog twin. He’s really dangerous.”

In a BBC documentary on the gang’s activities, Rashied admitted he’d been placed in the psychiatric ward during one of his spells in prison. He was said to be the criminal brains behind the Hard Livings gang and organised their alleged drug trafficking.

On Thursday, another Hard Livings gang boss, leader, Ballie Tips, was killed with two shots to the head in Westridge, Mitchells Plain. A 16-year-old standing with him was injured.

The Hard Livings “super gang” is both a street gang and illicit trafficking syndicate run on corporate lines. Rashied, a fighting general in the 26 prison gang, was CEO of the Manenberg-centred organisation. It has chapters throughout the Western Cape.

The gang was formed in 1971 by the Staggies and began as a “merchant” gang, fighting for urban turf within which to sell mandrax and dagga. As its distribution network grew, Hard Livings moved into protection rackets, drug running, poaching, prostitution, diamond smuggling and setting up shebeens. The gang allegedly cooperated with the Sicilian mafia in the trafficking of illegal diamonds as well as exporting dagga to Europe.

It increasingly expanded operations from its base, Die Hok, in Manenberg, developing a strong presence in Sea Point and Green Point.

At the time Rashaad Staggie was killed, he was said to be making R100,000 a day selling drugs. Then, on the night of 5 August 1996, a baying mob dragged him from his customised Jeep, shot him through the head, set him ablaze and, just to be sure, pumped him full of bullets.

As he lay dying in the gutter, the police looked on and did nothing, some probably sympathetic to a crowd frustrated by the authorities’ failure to stem the flood of drugs into their neighbourhoods.

In 2004, Rashied was convicted for an extraordinarily daring burglary from the Faure police armoury and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He also went on trial for the gang rape of a 17-year-old woman who had betrayed his trust. The court heard that the young woman, originally involved with Hard Livings, had become a police informant. Staggie had her gang-raped at gunpoint.

She turned state witness and her testimony sent him to jail for 15 years for kidnapping and rape. In 2004, Staggie was also found guilty of the Faure robbery, but the two sentences were served concurrently. He was let out on parole after serving 13 years.

In 2013, the young woman was shot with her boyfriend, Romano Oliver,27, while walking home in Manenberg. Oliver died at the scene. She spent many weeks in hospital on life support.

That same year, Rashied was released on parole after spending 13 years behind bars, where he rose to the rank of 26 Fighting General. His attorney, Janos Mihalik, claimed at the time that requiring him to drive to Pollsmoor Prison each evening was dangerous. “The gangsters, government, or whoever, want him assassinated like his brother.”

Shortly after his release, Staggie reportedly joined the Patriotic Alliance, the party started by ex-convict Gayton McKenzie and his former jail mate and businessman, Kenny Kunene.

In 2016, Staggie was again in court over possession of 23 bottles of Johnnie Walker Green Label whisky worth about R20,000 and Cuban cigars. Police initially said the whisky was part of a batch worth more than R10-million stolen from a depot. The case was provisionally withdrawn soon thereafter.

Staggie claimed at the time of this arrest that he earned a R5,000 monthly salary as a motivational speaker.

This is a developing story and could be the beginning of very bad news for Cape Flats residents. DM

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