He may share a surname with some of the Cape’s most notorious gangsters, but talented Jason Staggie is definitely not following in the footsteps of his infamous uncles.
The nephew of former Hard Livings gang leaders Rashied and Rashaad Staggie is a published writer, a filmmaker and the first member of his family to obtain a university degree.
One of his short screenplays was shortlisted for the international Kevin Spacey Jameson prize, and he is currently working on a documentary about his uncles.
Jason, 29, is the author of Risk, a hard-hitting novel about a group of rich university students who indulge in drugs, alcohol, sex and a daring game called Risk.
“There’s a lot of sex and drugs in there. Some people who’ve read it, that’s all they see, but there is also a lot of social consciousness in the book,” Jason explains.
He is already halfway through writing his next book, Epic.
Jason says: “It’s about a ‘break-up artist’ – a guy who goes around breaking up couples and he gets paid for it.”
He says he likes to use “really crazy tales to show up social issues in South Africa and Africa”.
Unlike his uncles and his father Solomon, who is currently serving time for a triple murder, Jason says he’s never been tempted to live a life of crime.
Jason says he never grew up in Manenberg, the area synonymous with his family.
“That is a common misconception. My father grew up in Manenberg, and my mum in Hanover Park,” he says.
“But my only interaction with Manenberg has been with the documentary I’m busy making. I don’t even remember going there when I was younger.”
His mom Cheryl, a former teacher in Manenberg and Lavender Hill, kept her three young kids away from their notorious uncles, and pushed them to study further.
“She tried to shelter me from that life. When my dad went to jail we were completely cut off,” Jason says.
He remembers very little from the “wild days” of Pagad, and the time his uncle Rashaad was murdered.
“That was a crazy time. But I never felt threatened, even though there was a time we had bodyguards,” Jason says.
“Even now, I am not afraid. I don’t expect things to get out of hand.”
Jason first started studying law, but later switched to psychology to be able to write better characters.
His younger brother is a medical student, while his little sister is studying law.
Jason has lived and worked in various countries, including South Korea, the Czech Republic and Ireland.
He returned home with the sole intention of making a film about his uncles, called Hard Livings.
“The documentary is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” the young man explains.
“I really wanted to find out where my dad and my uncles came from, what made them become the way they were.”
He speaks openly about his family, his visits to his dad and uncle in jail, and the burden of the Staggie name.
“As a child, I felt that I was being judged on my surname, but it’s also cloaked me in this armour where I don’t really care what people think anymore,” he says.
“Because of that, I go out in the world trying not to be judgemental.”
Jason hopes that his uncle Rashied’s release on day parole next week, after a rape conviction, will open a new chapter for the Staggie family.
“For me, it comes to the point where they are being punished for doing something in their past, but give them a chance to show what they can do when they are free,” he says.
“That’s how I feel about it.
“I don’t judge them, but they have repented for what they did. You can only punish them for so long.” - Daily Voice