Durban is SA’s new playground of warring drug cartels

Internationally renowned narcotics and addiction specialist Dr Lochan Naidoo has warned of an increase in mafia-style shootings and mass killings in KwaZulu-Natal, saying competing drug cartels are making Durban their new turf.

In an interview with Sunday World recently, Naidoo shared that the Durban port complicates the war against the proliferation of drugs, noting that it is being used as a conduit for heroin destined for the domestic market and the east African coast.

“Global cartels use Durban port as a transit point for heroin, which mostly comes from countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan,” said Naidoo.

“Local drug cartels scramble for the control of this lucrative market because as more drugs are dispatched through the port, there is more demand in the local market.”

Naidoo’s comments come hot on the heels of last week’s shooting and killing of five suspected drug dealers in Morningside, a suburb in Durban. The police believe that the shooting helped break the back of a notorious drug syndicate.

According to the police’s anti-gang unit, early investigations suggest that the deceased were key movers in mafia-style murders that have rocked the province in recent weeks.

While the mafia-style killings are a common feature outside the Durban CBD, indications are that criminal gangs are now bringing the war to the inner city.

The gangs have also become vile, killing their perceived competitors with whoever is in their company including children.

ENACT, a programme under the Institute for Security Studies, notes in its study titled The heroin coast: A political economy along the Eastern African Seaboard that drug traffickers often have greater ease getting drugs in and out of the country.

“South Africa stands out as a major destination for much of the heroin that enters the region, both as an end destination for local sale and consumption,” notes the study.

The study also shows that powerful and often violent criminal interests are involved in controlling the heroin trade in major South African cities.

Mafia-style killings in Durban:

  • March 21 2023: Brandon Kalicharan of Chartsworth in Durban was killed together with his wife and nine-year-old daughter while travelling on Peters Road in Springfield. Police later said Kalicharan was allegedly involved in drug- and gang-related activities and was the subject of a Hawks investigation.
  • January 4 2021: The Shallcross community was rocked by an assassination of Yaganathan Pillay, known as Teddy Mafia, a feared drug lord in Durban. The alleged assassins bungled their escape plan and were caught by Pillay sympathisers who beheaded them before setting their bodies alight.
  • February 11 2022: Charlene Naicker of Welbedacht in Durban and her two children were gunned down at their home while she was preparing an evening meal. Although the motive for the killing is still not known, it is alleged that she was a victim of key movers in the drug trade.
  • October 18 2021: Simone Jasmine, known as Queen of the South, was ambushed inside an e-hailing vehicle. Jasmine, whose body was riddled with bullets, was alleged to have been the leader of one of the feared gangs in Durban.

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