Hard Livings, but the living is easy

Alex Duval Smith

Hard Livings gang leader Rashied Staggie’s favoured hood-wear of the moment is a bright orange cap that he wears slightly set back on the head to reveal the green- coloured underside of its visor. This, reflected in the gold-rimmed mirror sunglasses which are perpetually perched on his nose, produces a coolly distant image.

Add this to the gold earrings he wears—one in each lobe—and his well-groomed designer beard, and you have a man who betrays none of the supposed stress of a gangster’s life.

Staggie’s life—which earns him a rumoured R30 000 daily from drug deals and prostitution—is not a settled one. Always on the move to dodge the bullets of rival gangs, he is constantly flanked by his bodyguard Gregg, even when he is sleeping.

He sleeps in a specially constructed windowless room and, on any given night, can be found sheltering in his Manenberg house, at his Sea Point brothel, or at his house on Conifer Road, Sea Point. His days appear to be spent driving around with Gregg in different cars, collecting protection money. Staggie is never anywhere for very long.

He appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court in Cape Town on Tuesday on charges of obstructing the police in the execution of their duties. He was granted bail of R2 000. The charges followed an altercation in Manenberg when Staggie and three cohorts tried to prevent police from arresting a man who was allegedly found in possession of a police bulletproof vest.

The police have not been successful in building a case against Staggie in the past. In 1995 he was caught red-handed breaking into a Woodstock home allegedly to steal drugs from its occupants. A year later the charges against him were dropped when none of the witnesses to the break-in appeared in court to testify against him.

Staggie and his brother Rashaad were a double act: identical twins who grew up to rule one of the biggest gangs in the Cape through bullying and kindness. They complemented each other, and when Rashaad was brutally gunned down and set alight by People Against Drugs and Gangsterism (Pagad) vigilantes, there was speculation - - albeit very brief—that Rashied would not cope alone. He soon disabused the Cape of that notion.

Rashaad was the flamboyant member of their act, a drug dealer with “a heart of gold”. He used to drive through his neighbourhood, Manenberg, flinging notes of a high denomination through the car window at members of his deprived community. Needless to say, there are many today who will defend the Staggies.

Rashied was the enforcer, by his own brother’s admission a psychopath. Rashaad coined a nickname for his brother that many still use today: “mad dog.” Rashied admitted that during spells in prison during his youth, he had spent time in psychiatric wards.

Unlike top drug baron Colin Stanfield, whom neighbours in Rondebosch describe as difficult but polite—when their windows are broken by stray bullets, he sends them flowers—Staggie does not bother with the finer social graces. On being asked which house in Conifer Road was Staggie’s, one neighbour ran away.

However, the house was not difficult to spot: a panel had been cut out of the wooden door in Conifer Street and replaced by a piece of one-way mirror glass. A steady stream of young men—probably addicts and small-time dealers—passed in and out.

Staggie is more careful to nurse a caring- and-sharing image on the Cape Flats, specifically in Manenberg.

He appears to be one of the most influential members of Community Outreach (Core), an organisation of allegedly reformed gangsters, if not its leader. He often acts as the group’s spokesman, for instance when the organisation endorsed the work of the Olympic Bid committee.

At present he is keen to give the impression that the police are acting as a “third force” in the gang wars, fomenting rivalry between Core gangs and Pagad. However, the attack on his Sea Point house last week and the subsequent fatal shooting of Edmund Herold, leader of The Americans, could have been a simple case of score- settling within Core.

There is every indication that The Americans, despite claiming to have disbanded last year, currently enjoy a particularly powerful hold on the cocaine trade.

The attack on Staggie’s house could have been an attempt by The Americans to strengthen that control. If so, some people believe Herold’s killing the same evening was a revenge attack by Staggie’s Hard Livings.

With an estimated 400 000 gang members in the Western Cape and an unknown number of drug addicts, Staggie controls an empire that could rival many South African businesses in sheer size and enormous profits—tax free, of course.

But his brother’s death was proof that, despite police impotence in the face of brazen criminality in the Western Cape, no one is untouchable.

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