Teddy Mafia's love-hate relationship - the violent past of Shallcross' 'go-to guy'

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Police look on as two decapitated bodies burn in Shallcross.
Police look on as two decapitated bodies burn in Shallcross.
  • Yaganathan Pillay, also known as Teddy Mafia, was shot and killed on Monday.
  • Two other men were also shot, beheaded and their bodies set alight in broad daylight.
  • Pillay's complicated standing in the community came to the fore after his shooting, with people describing him as the "go-to guy" for those with problems.

Durban's Yaganathan Pillay, also known as "Teddy Mafia" or "Uncle Teddy", was regarded as the go-to guy in Shallcross, Durban, for people who needed help with the problems they were facing.

This is despite his reputation as a drug kingpin in a community ravaged by the effects of illegal substances.

READ | Teddy Mafia revenge murders: Violent retribution seen as 'Robin Hood' deeds by some

Before his murder on Monday and the shocking aftermath of a double beheading and a scene police battled to get under control, Pillay was regarded as the guy who could help those in need.

Pictures depict him wearing crisp T-shirts and jewellery, as he poses outside his home in Shallcross, tucked away in the suburbs south of Durban.

Deepak Panday, author of the book The Kings of Durban which looks at the history of gangsterism in the coastal city, said that if anybody had money problems, or they were about to be put out of their homes because they couldn't make rent, they knew they could turn to Pillay.

"That's why they looked up to him."

For Panday, Monday's turn of events had been coming for a long time and he called for urgent help for the community.

"How much worse will it get?" he asked.

"People need to meet the community and ask them what they need," said Panday, who survived a brush with gangsterism himself as a youngster.

Dealer code

There have been claims that Pillay may have been involved in the organised illegal drug trade.

Panday said if that was the case, the drug trade of today had become very competitive and violent, with large sums of money at stake.

"The whole game has changed. In the 50s it was mainly marijuana, gambling and prostitution. People used knives and fists to sort things out. Now they work with hard core drugs and it is very competitive."

With far more expensive consignments to protect and much higher stock costs and incomes at stake, the drug world is very different to the world the older gangsters moved in.

He said the older dealers had a code - they did not sell to youngsters and told young people to stay away from drugs.

But the new generation of drug pushers regard youngsters as their main target market, while also recruiting young people with no hope of other employment to work for them.

"There is a lack of employment and opportunities. What else do you have to do but hang around a certain spot. It's hectic. What do they have to look forward to?

"It's reaching boiling point," Panday said.

"The social issues are not being addressed by anyone."

And, posits Panday, every couple of years, leadership battles erupt as a new generation moves in and wants their turn at the top.

The beheadings shocked him and he was still pondering whether it was an act of desperation in the community or an act of revenge.

The scene was so volatile that the police struggled to get it under control. This was reminiscent of a raid at his home in 2019 when police were also faced with hostility in the area when they arrived, according to TimesLive.

For Yaganathan Pillay, the signs of trouble had been creeping ever closer to home, with a series of tragedies intermingled with his own arrests and police raids.


He was killed less than a year after his son, Devendren, was killed in a drive-by shooting, which also left a female bystander dead.

The Rising Sun Chatsworth reported in March 2020 that when 38-year-old trucking company owner Devendren was shot, he was chatting to childhood friends.

Thirty-four-year-old Claudene Rampersad, who was standing in the vicinity, was also hit. Her teenage son, who was metres away, and her young daughter, also outside, were not physically harmed but Rampersad died.

IOL reported that in December 2019 and January 2020, Pillay's nephews, Stanley Pillay and Tarry Samuels, were shot. And, in March 2020, his wife's cousin, Joseph Anthony, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Northdene.

Yaganathan Pillay's plans for a ceremony last year to mark 16 days since his son had died were scuppered when the metro police objected to the erection of a marquee in the street, even though he said he had obtained permission to put it up.

Pillay was again thrust into the spotlight last November, when a Chatsworth police officer was reportedly fired for following the instructions of his commanding officer to escort Pillay from a court appearance, according to IOL.

The incident was caught on camera and the video went viral. The officer was then investigated and later dismissed.

Yaganathan Pillay was arrested in April 2020 and appeared in the Chatsworth Magistrate's Court. At the time, police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker called the arrests a "breakthrough" regarding gangs and drug turf war.

Police also raided Pillay's home and four firearms - a rifle, shotgun, pistol and revolver - were recovered. According to The Post, Naicker said two of the firearms were licensed and seized for further analysis.

Almost R700 000 in cash and gold and silver coins valued at an estimated R250 000 were also found and five cellphones were confiscated.

In another raid in nearby Table Mountain Road, heroin, Mandrax and Ecstacy valued at about R240 000 were found at a flat and an alleged associate of Pillay was charged.

In January 2013, he and his son were arrested after a police raid at their home in Shallcross near Chatsworth, City Press reported at the time.

Officers discovered bags reportedly containing large amounts of heroin.

The following month, police officers conducted a second raid. However, Pillay was not home.

It is thought that Pillay had community support, with people raising the alarm if police were on their way.

In 2016, IOL reported that Pillay and another man had been arrested, allegedly for the possession of about R1.8 million worth of drugs and various firearms, including a Beretta 6.35 pistol and a home-made gun.

At one of Pillay's court appearances, people wore T-shirts with the words "The People's Champion" printed on it.

Pillay reportedly had previous convictions dating back to the 1970s for dealing in alcohol, driving without a licence and possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Before he was murdered on Monday, Pillay had informed his daughter he was expecting visitors.

Naicker said his daughter heard gunshots from the back of the property and established that her father had been shot.

Naicker said the community apprehended two suspects and set them alight before beheading them.

And when officers arrived at the scene, the community opened fire on them.

The Public Order Policing Unit was called to the scene and managed to disperse the crowd.

On Tuesday, Naicker told News24 the area was quiet, adding officers were monitoring it.

He said investigations into the murder of Pillay and the two men, whose names police will not release yet, were continuing.

The provincial organised crime unit was investigating. 

- Compiled by Jeanette Chabalala and Jenni Evans

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