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Suspected Parliament arsonist’s Covid-19 isolation and new charges delay bail hearing

Suspected Parliament arsonist’s Covid-19 isolation and new charges delay bail hearing
Zandile Christmas Mafe appears in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on 11 January 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Charges against suspected Parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe have been consolidated. The main charge is housebreaking with intent to commit terrorism and arson.

The legal team representing Zandile Mafe – senior counsel Dali Mpofu and advocate Luvuyo Godla – have to consult with their client on the new charge before finalising a founding affidavit in support of a bail application.

Mafe was previously charged with housebreaking to commit theft.

The bail application was scheduled to be heard on Saturday, 22 January 2022 in the Cape Town Regional Court. However, with this latest development and because Mafe tested positive for Covid-19 and was placed in isolation, the hearing has been postponed to Saturday, 29 January.

On Friday, 21 January, Eric Ntabazalila, the National Prosecuting Authority’s Western Cape spokesperson, said: “The changes came after advocate Mervyn Menigo, the leading prosecutor in the matter, had studied the docket afresh, further consulted with the investigating officer and felt that the charges needed to be reformulated.”

The new charge sheet against the accused includes the charges of housebreaking with intent to commit terrorism and arson, terrorism alternatively delivery, placement, discharge or detonation of an explosive or lethal device, arson and theft.

Acting Regional Court President MF Adams, confirming the postponement, said: “The court was informed that due to the accused contracting the Covid-19 virus he is currently in isolation and will not be able to attend Saturday, 22 January proceedings.”

It is the State’s contention that “on 2 January 2022 the accused did unlawfully and intentionally break open and entered the Parliament Buildings with the intent to commit in contravention of section 2 and section of the 5(b) of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act 33 of 2002 and Arson”.

A devastating fire swept through the precinct, which destroyed the New Assembly building.

The Hawks investigating the attack on a national key point have gone on record saying they have arrested the right person and indicated that more arrests are imminent.

On Friday, Godla told Maverick Citizen: “Our client isolation period ends on Monday, 24 January 2022 and only thereafter will we be able to consult with Mr Mafe.

“Mr Mafe is not aware of the new charge of housebreaking with intent to commit terrorism and arson that was added to the charge sheet. It is important that as his legal team we need to discuss the new developments with Mr Mafe.”

This would help the team to finalise the affidavit in support of a bail application, which would be read into the record at his next appearance.

Godla reiterated: “My client will give oral evidence if circumstances require.”

Mafe’s Covid-19 status first became public knowledge during a virtual hearing in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, 18 January. During that hearing, Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe gave an order setting aside Mafe’s referral to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital which had been issued by Magistrate Zamkelie Mbalo in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 4 January.

Following the high court order, Mafe was released from Valkenberg on Wednesday, 19 January and moved to Pollsmoor Prison.

Ntabazilila added: “On Friday, 21 January 2022, the State, defence and the acting president of the regional court met virtually to discuss the logistics of the bail application and the parties agree with the defence as they are unable to consult with Mafe until he completes his isolation on Monday, 24 January.”

The principal charge of terrorism faced by the accused is listed as schedule 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. The State’s reasons for opposing bail will include the likelihood that he will evade his trial and that it is in the interest of justice that he remain in custody pending the outcome of his criminal proceedings.

The hurdle Mafe’s legal team must overcome in terms of 60(11)(a) of the act is that the accused adduces evidence which satisfies the court that exceptional circumstances exist which, in the interests of justice, permit his release. DM/MC


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