Reformed Hard Livings gang leader Rashied Staggie was on Wednesday found not guilty of the revenge murder of taxi driver Mogamat Ryklief.
Staggie appeared in the Cape High Court before Judge Nathan Erasmus, who labelled the only state witness, Donavan Richards, as a ”good liar who manipulated words to suit himself”.
Staggie was applauded by supporters in the public gallery as the judge told him: ”You are free to go.”
Erasmus said Staggie had pleaded not guilty to Ryklief’s murder. His defence had been an outright denial of any involvement in it whatsoever.
Ryklief was murdered, apparently in revenge for the brutal slaying 11 years ago of Staggie’s brother, Rashaad.
He said Staggie had elected to remain silent, and not to testify, as advised by defence counsel Koos Louw.
Staggie’s brother was torched and shot dead in August 1996 outside his home by vigilantes attached to the then anti-drug and gangsterism organisation, People against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad).
The incident had received prominent news coverage and was filmed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
A summary of facts handed to the court during the trial by prosecutor Anthony Steven SC alleged that Staggie and members of his gang had viewed the video footage and identified people involved in the slaying.
Steven alleged that Staggie had ordered them shot dead, and his instructions had led to the death of Ryklief, who was ambushed in his taxi and gunned down.
The judge said Richards, who was currently serving a jail sentence imposed by the Wynberg Regional Court for his part in the murder, had been the only state witness in Staggie’s trial.
He said Richards had ”adapted his testimony for the purposes of self-preservation and had cleverly manipulated words as he testified”.
The judge said Steven had called for a conviction on the alternative charges, at least, of conspiracy and incitement to murder.
Erasmus said that Richards’s evidence had been totally unreliable, so much so that the court was unable to make any findings of fact at all based on it.
The judge added: ”His testimony amounted to blatant lies.” — Sapa