Graffiti artist pays the price

It has taken three years, but ­Durban’s most notorious graffiti artist has finally been nailed.

Phillip Botha has been the public face of Durban’s graffiti ­community for ages.

eThekwini municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe viewed the 29-year-old artist as Durban’s public enemy number one.

The tattooed working-class white boy from Umbilo with a ­fiancée and an eight-year-old son is now doing community service.

Botha’s crime? Tagging signposts, bridges, electricity boxes and other property owned by the municipality in a graffiti blitz.

City officials laid criminal charges in September 2007. When police came up with nothing, Sutcliffe brought in private investigators.

In March 2008, Botha’s workplace was raided and his computer hard drives copied.

Police ­confiscated his 67 pairs of takkies – he collects them – as “evidence”.

The case then stalled. His lawyer, Abdul Karim, was told there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

In January this year the case was reopened.

“I was told I could go hand ­myself in to avoid being arrested, so I did.

They had alerted the ­media. It was clear they wanted a scapegoat to scare everybody off ­because of the World Cup,” he says.

Botha was formally charged with more than 800 counts of malicious damage to property.

The city also wanted to hold him responsible for the R800 000 it spent in cleaning walls ahead of the World Cup.

“We agreed on a plea with the prosecution, but then somebody in the city wasn’t happy and we had to start all over again,” Botha says.

Eventually, on July 28 Botha pleaded guilty to “having on numerous occasions painted, drawn and written on public property”.

Botha was sentenced to 18 months in jail, suspended for five years, 12 months’ house arrest, 16 hours community service (he cleans the toilets at the Umbilo ­police station) and correctional ­supervision programmes. 

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