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Cape Town - Controversial businessman Kenny Kunene jetted into Cape Town last week to meet notorious former Hard Livings gang boss Rashied Staggie at Brandvlei Prison in Worcester.
And it seems Kunene is taking up a brand new challenge after his brief stint in politics, teaming up with his business partner, Gayton McKenzie and former gang pastor, Ivan Waldeck, to help reform youths in the gang-infested Cape Flats.
Staggie, who has been serving a 15-year sentence since 2003, was expected to begin day parole from September 29.
The head of the Hard Livings gang was found guilty of giving orders to have a teenage girl from Manenberg kidnapped and gang-raped.
In 2004, while in custody, he was also convicted of stealing weapons from the Faure police armoury, and sentenced to 13 years to run concurrently with the rape sentence.
Kunene said: “We have been trying to see how we can work together on programmes for the rehabilitation of ex-gang members and also drug dealers. And we started getting involved with pastor Ivan Waldeck who has been working on similar programmes…”
The so-called “sushi king”, an ex-convict himself, along with McKenzie, has been working on a rehabilitation programme behind the scenes in the Western Cape.
And the trio did not just see Staggie, but have also held talks with other leaders in the gang world.
“We are talking to other people as well, although I am not at liberty to name them now. But we are working out ways to address this issue in Cape Town.”
Kunene said they would not be benefiting personally from the discussions.
Asked if brokering peace was his true calling, – following his brief stint with Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters party, Kunene said: “There’s a time where one makes a conscious decision and says this is the route I’d like to follow, let me forget about the past and look at the future. If it’s my destiny then it’s fine.”
Kunene told said he had been very selfish in his life, focusing on himself and his own happiness.
“I focused on what the world had to offer and I had it all. I’ve had all that I believed I could have in this life and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve had women, I had cars, I’ve drunk the most expensive alcohol money can buy, I’ve been to the most expensive places. And there comes a time when one asks what have I done for others,” he said.
“This is the time when we start to contribute to the upliftment of others. It’s about these intentions we are raising with Rashied Staggie. It’s not even about money – it’s about the youth and their future, that’s the discussions we’ve been having.”
Kunene said they were happy with the progress they had made. They believed Staggie was ready for change and deserved a chance to get out of prison.
He said they asked Staggie: “Are you still going to be the old Rashied, or are you ready for change? We want him to assist us in this programme to change the lives of young people and to make sure that these gang-ridden communities are better off, that kids are able to go to school, that parents are able to go to work without fear of gun battles, dodging bullets or being shot.”
Staggie had welcomed them.
“He has given us hope that he will be a very useful member of society once he gets out. This is not the last visit, we will keep on visiting him until he gets out of prison. We’ve made proposals to him and he’s already started talking with youngsters at the prison facility.”
Staggie wanted to change and leave a legacy for his children.
Waldeck said he was glad that “people from Joburg” were joining them in the fight against drugs and gangs in the Cape.
But he added the problem was bigger than gangsterism and drugs.
“People from the coloured communities need to understand they need to fight for our communities. We have a strategic plan and we will come together with the communities.”