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Parliament arson accused says there’s nothing wrong w...

South Africa


Parliament arson accused says there’s nothing wrong with him, goes on hunger strike after State drops ‘schizophrenia’ bomb

Alleged Parliament arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe in the Cape Town Magistrates' Court on 11 January 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

The man accused of setting Parliament on fire has gone on a hunger strike and will only stop once his bail application has been dealt with.

This was the stance Zandile Mafe (49) adopted in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court after the State brought new evidence against him on Tuesday, 11 January.

Prosecutor Helene Booysen submitted an assessment report from a district surgeon declaring that Mafe is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. This implies that due to his mental state he may not be fit to stand trial.

The State then dropped another bombshell when Booysen informed the court that the charge of destruction of essential infrastructure had been dropped and substituted with contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act No 33 of 2004.

People picket outside the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court in support of alleged arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe on 11 January 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)
Protesters outside the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court where Zandile Mafe appeared in connection with the fire at Parliament on 11 January 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

This charge reads: “In that upon about 2 January 2022 and at or near Parliament Cape Town, in district Cape Town, the said accused did unlawfully and intentionally deliver, place, discharge or donate an explosive or other lethal device in, into or against a place of public use, a state or government facility, or an infrastructure facility, the Parliament Building, with the purpose, amongst others, of causing extensive damage to or destruction of such a place, facility or system, where such destruction resulted in or likely to result in major economic loss.”

This is a schedule 6 offence which shifts the onus to the accused to adduce evidence to show that exceptional circumstances exist which permit his release on bail.

Advocate Dali Mpofu speaks to his client, alleged arsonist Zandile Mafe, in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on 11 January 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Booysen added that, suffice it to say, based on the mental assessment report, the accused will not be fit to stand trial.

“Your Honour, it is the State’s respectful submission that the accused be referred to Valkenberg Hospital for a 30-day observation period. At this stage it would be a waste of time to continue with Mafe’s bail application only to hear a month later that he is not fit to stand trial,” she said.

“Your Honour, we have been informed by the chief at Valkenberg Hospital that as soon as bed becomes available they will admit the accused for observation.”

Zandile Mafe’s advocate, Luvuyo Godla, speaks to the media outside the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on 11 January 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

But senior counsel Dali Mpofu was unimpressed by what transpired in Court 16 on Tuesday. Having been ready to argue for the client’s release on bail, he was caught off guard by the new documents handed in by the State.

He told the court: “The manner in which these new documents were presented is unacceptable. This information given to court is seen by the defence as an ambush.”

Based on the new evidence handed in, Magistrate Zamkelie Mbalo granted a short adjournment to allow Mpofu and advocate Luvuyo Godla to consult with Mafe.

NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila speaks to the media outside the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court after alleged arsonist Zandile Mafe’s appearance on 11 January 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

After the restart Mpofu told the court: “It is the instruction from my client to inform this court there is nothing wrong with him. My client will immediately go on a hunger strike until his bail hearing has been heard.”

Mpofu told the court that it is travesty of justice that his client’s bail application has not been heard after 10 days.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila explained to Daily Maverick that the State tabled the results of observations from a district surgeon, which suggest that Mafe suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

Outside court a small group, including homeless people, protested and called for Mafe’s immediate release. Bianca Booysen, a Stellenbosch community activist, said she had expected more citizens and political officials to be in court.

“I’m actually disappointed in the turnout. South Africa should have been here. South Africa should have been here to show Cyril and his cronies that we are gatvol,” said Booysen.

Booysen argued that Mafe’s case is indicative of a wider, oppressive social structure, one that demands that citizens show up and protest together. 

Alleged arsonist Zandile Mafe in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on 11 January 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Joscelyn Beukes, from the Black Consciousness Movement, told Daily Maverick that it seems Mafe is being framed for what may be a broader issue. 

“From where we’re standing, yes he is being used as a scapegoat. The allegations that Mafe is a spy are ridiculous and unbelievable. 

“I hate it when vulnerable people are being taken for a ride just because they’re vulnerable,” she said.

A crowd gathers outside the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court in support of arson accused Zandile Mafe on 11 January 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Lwando Wole, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania’s regional deputy chairperson, and provincial chairperson Soso Kuni said: “As far as we’re concerned he’s not guilty. The only crime that he’s charged for is being African and poor, in this anti-African society.”

The magistrate ordered that Mafe be sent for 30 days’ observation at Valkenberg Hospital. He will be back in court on Friday, 11 February. DM


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All Comments 22

  • The question begs to be asked.Whos idea was the hunger strike?After consultation,the reply was put forward by Adv Mpofu(of “shut up”fame) .Even if he is being set up,which side is doing it?RET faction or the state?Did he have “handlers” or did he act out of own initiative?Was he grabbed to create a suspect.Who saw him,who arrested him?Is the arrester aligned to anybody?Lots of scenarios

    • Exactly. Tsafendas was portrayed by the prosecution as a schizophrenic who killed Verwoerd for no specific reason. Neither of which was true.

      • Perhaps having someone declared insane is a convenient way to keep someone tucked away, and so stripping the individual of any chance of defending himself, so that the truth can be covered up perpetually.

  • This is interesting- a charge of treason? So if this is the charge for this act , where is the charge, or charges, of treason for the extraordinarily harmful orgy of violence in July , which left over 300people dead, scores of business destroyed, and livelihoods decimated? How come the police/ security services were so quick to act in thi s case , but are still slow walking the other? We need answers- or is this just a question of selective culpability , while ignoring the still reverberating repercussions of the horrendous mayhem inJuly?

  • Johan Buys spot on, I was thinking the same scenario,the similarities.In the book Tall Assassin by Alan D Elson it is stated that Lang Jan Hendrik van den Berg visited Tsafendas and after that Tsafendas was diagnosed as not fit for trail.The man who killed Aprtheid by HarrisDousemetzis also a good read.

  • Anti African society? South Africa may be an anti poor society but where is the evidence that it is anti African?
    I also hate it when “vulnerable people are taken for a ride”. We need to understand exactly who is pulling the strings here. Whatever Mafe’s involvement (if any) we need to understand who is behind it.

  • This case is simply mind boggling. Suddenly the cops move with urgency, the prosecution changes the charges to the most severe that they could and a district surgeon diagnoses a serious mental illness. The SAPS haven’t made one significant arrest following the July insurrection and absolutely zilch from the entire state capture but now they arrest a sleeping vagrant and throw the book at him. Who is covering up for whom and why? I guess that only CR and some other ANCs know that but CR has lost his tongue and the ANCs …… well we know about them.

  • Twitter is a mess on the issue. I saw the same tweet from several RET ghost accounts about how Mafe as poor and black is being paraded around by the media while they hadn’t seen the faces of the murderers from the “The Phoenix Massacre”.

  • With the friends he has recently attracted Mafe hardly needs enemies. Their involvement alone suggests he was part of some RET plot.

  • This whole thing is a distraction from the incompetence of the security afforded state assets. That is ZERO security. People are paid but as usual don’t actually DO anything.
    So this fall guy is had up for treason. What about the hundreds burning tyres and damaging our roads or those stripping railway stations bare? Is that not treason? If I had participated in either of those activities in my youth I would still be locked up on Robben Island.

  • Is there no legal basis for criminal charges against the leadership of parliament for their role in the fire, through their continued failure to take steps they knew were necessary to prevent or limit fire: making sure the sprinkler system was working; that fire doors were closed, etc? I have seen no discussion of that question in press coverage so far.

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