Staggie keeps peace at clash over murals

By Theresa Smith Time of article published Feb 20, 2004

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Rashied Staggie stepped in to defuse a potentially volatile situation in Manenberg on Thursday when community representatives and gangsters argued about whether to paint over two murals.

The murals, both depicting Tupac Shakur, were painted in 1997 on the road-facing sides of Beatrix Court in Manenberg Avenue and have become a landmark and symbol of the problems facing Manenberg's people.

The murals pay homage to the slain American rapper and the fight between east coast and west coast American gangs.

Painters working on the rest of Beatrix Court as part of a local initiative to clean up the area were all set to paint over the murals on Thursday morning, but were stopped by gangsters who said they had not been consulted.

Gangsters and residents confronted one another and the argument became heated. Before the situation got out of hand, Staggie arrived and people quietened down.

At Staggie's prompting community representatives and gangsters agreed to meet on Monday to discuss the situation.

One resident wanted to know why permission had to be sought from gangsters to remove the picture when no one had asked Beatrix court residents for permission to paint the mural.

Erica Anthony said people were happy with the murals when they were painted. "But when they realised what the reasoning was behind the picture, they weren't so happy."

Mareldeya Harding, zone co-ordinator for the area, said residents of Beatrix Court decided late last year to replace the murals with something more suitable. "Maybe the Bafana Bafana team," she said.

She has seen many tour buses ferry tourists to the murals where they have their pictures taken.

"There are still gangsters here. We will never get rid of that. But they (tourists) think that the picture is the whole of Manenberg. We try to explain but they just take the picture and that's it.

"This (the mural) is not Manenberg. People here want the children to have a better future," said Harding.

One gangster, who identified himself as Watson, was adamant that the murals should be touched up and not painted over.

"There are busloads of people coming through here but we never see the money," said Watson.

He is unemployed and wants the opportunity to ask tourists for money if they want to take his picture in front of the murals.

"They (the residents) didn't consult us. Certain people were invited to the meeting but it doesn't work that way. We're part of the community too," he said.

Sylvia van Rooyen, who lives opposite Beatrix Court, does not want to see the murals painted over either. When her grandson, Marco, became separated from his mother on Saturday at Tambo Square, all he could tell the police officer who found him was that he lives at West Side - meaning close to the mural.

"It's a landmark," she said.

This landmark was the scene of bloody turf wars in the 1990s between the Hard Livings, the Clever Kids and The Americans, and Staggie said he associated the murals with "more hurt than good".

"This picture is an example of what people associate with gangsters. Tupac was a role model for gangsters.

"I think the picture can go, but what are they going to put in its place?" he asked.

The community should be consulted about the future of the murals, he said.

- Staggie is out on bail pending his leave to appeal a kidnapping and rape conviction handed down in the Cape High Court in January last year. He is not allowed to enter Manenberg, where the victim lived, unless he's there to mediate between rival gangs or for church-related work.

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