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Diwali hamper furore

Sam Pillay.

Sam Pillay.

Published Oct 22, 2017

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Durban - Enraged Chatsworth residents stormed the offices of the Anti-Drug Forum demanding Diwali hampers after local alleged drug kingpin Yaganathan “Teddy Mafia” Pillay and his wife halted their annual handouts.

Poor residents, who say they look forward to the hampers every year, claim they were told this time to go to the Forum’s  Arena Park offices for help as the “service” had been discontinued.

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Forum director Sam Pillay said his staff had been inundated with visits from a number of residents demanding Diwali hampers since last week. 

“Upon questioning them I found out that a drug dealer who does the hamper drive every year does not want to do it this year and he has now held the forum accountable for his decision.”

Pillay said there were many drug dealers in Chatsworth who want to be seen as philanthropic and “do gooders” in the community. 

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“They prey on or target poverty stricken families or pensioners who are in dire need of help. These dealers will do everything and anything from paying their utility bills, residents’ rent, medical bills and even buying them with food. Some even do feeding schemes in the community and at schools.”

Pillay said in return the drug dealers gain the trust of residents.

“These residents are in turn used to keep an eye out for police. They are used to store the drugs and some are used as runners. The residents are so overwhelmed by the alleged generosity of the dealers it does not bother them that what they are doing is wrong,” he said.

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“I don’t understand why the drug dealer is holding us accountable unless he wants to prove to the community that the forum cannot help them. It’s a very complicated situation. Poverty is rife and many residents rely on these hampers because they know for the next couple of weeks they will have food.

Pillay said now that one source of the festive fare has being taken away from them they had become angry. 

“I have spoken to my team and our network of sponsors and while we believe that what residents are doing is wrong we understand their plight. So we have decided to put together grocery hampers and distribute it to the community.”

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Yaganathan Pillay was not available for comment, but his wife Susan, who runs a women’s organisation called People’s Choice, has hit back saying the annual distribution had not been done for personal reasons. 

“My husband and I started the distribution eight years ago because of the poverty in the community. We distribute about 1 800 hampers to the value of R540 each. From Monday to Friday my husband and I run feeding schemes from my home in Shallcross.”

They also distribute clothing and blankets, she said.

However, this year’s Diwali distrubution had been halted, Susan confirmed, citing “personal reasons”. Yaganathan has had several brushes with the law but has not been convicted of any drug-related crime.

Poverty stricken locals told POST they accepted the hampers simply because they had no choice as they had families to feed.

A 49-year-old Chatsworth mother of two, who shares an RDP home with three adults and three children, said her family struggled financially every month.

“I am aware that the items for the food hampers are bought from drug money but what else can I do?”

Another past recipient, a 38-year-old single mother of one, said: “I know where the hamper is coming from but there is nothing more I can do. I need to provide for my child and because the hamper is free I accept it.”

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