South Africa

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Trial of alleged Parliament arsonist postponed to 9 June for outstanding reports

Zandile Mafe appears in the Cape Town Magistrates' Court on 12 May 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa.(Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The authorisation certificate required by the State to charge a person with terrorism is the vital outstanding document needed before the matter of Parliament’s suspected arsonist, Zandile Mafe, can go to trial in the Western Cape High Court.

Terrorism accused and alleged arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe appeared briefly in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on Thursday. Mafe is charged with housebreaking with the intent to commit terrorism and arson, terrorism, arson and theft.

The charges relate to a fire that ripped through Parliament in the early hours of 2 January 2022, causing widespread damage to the Old and New Assembly buildings. If convicted of terrorism, Mafe faces life imprisonment.

Senior advocate Mervyn Menigo told the court that a final report on the damage to Parliament would be ready on Friday, 20 May. He said a crime scene and arson report would be finalised soon.

In view of the outstanding reports, Menigo requested the court to postpone the case to 9 June. He promised that all outstanding reports would be ready, as well as the authorisation certificate that is required when an accused is charged with terrorism.

Mafe’s legal counsel, advocate Luvuyo Godla, objected to this request, saying that he had been instructed by his client to dispute the requested postponement. He asked the court to give the State two weeks.

“The incident happened on 2 January 2022. Four months have elapsed and the investigation should have been completed. We cannot talk forever about the investigation,” Godla said.

However, magistrate Ronel Oliver ruled in favour of the State, saying it was in the interest of justice to grant the postponement. She requested that the indictment be ready to be served on 9 June.

Zandile Mafe appears in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on 12 May 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Western Cape National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said: “The authorisation certificate which the NPA needs when they are going to charge a person with the Terrorism Act and all other reports will be ready 9 June 2022. We will then serve the accused with an indictment and transfer the matter to the Western Cape High Court.”

Meanwhile, Mafe is also waiting on the judgment relating to his appeal against the decision of the Cape Town Regional Court to refuse his application for bail. Mafe’s bail was denied on 4 February.

Arguments in the appeal application by Mafe’s counsel, advocate Dali Mpofu, and prosecutor Menigo were aired in the Western Cape High Court on 25 April before judges James Lekhuleni and Daniel Thulare.

The gist of Mpofu’s arguments was that Dr Zelda van Tonder failed to tell the court why she had diagnosed Mafe as destructive and a paranoid schizophrenic. 

Another issue raised by Mpofu was why his client had been asked to make a so-called confession hours after the mental health report. Mpofu questioned the validity of the “confession” if Mafe was mentally unstable at that time.

The mental health report was released within 24 hours, not the prescribed 72 hours, and the confession played a crucial role in magistrate Michelle Adams deciding to deny bail.

She ruled that Mafe’s legal team had not proved that exceptional circumstances existed for him to be released on bail. Judgment in the appeal application has been reserved. DM

 

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