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Pre-trial hearing of alleged Parliament arsonist to be...

South Africa


Pre-trial hearing of alleged Parliament arsonist to be held in high court on 12 August

Suspected Parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

State prosecutor Mervyn Menigo SC indicated the matter was referred to the high court after outstanding damage and arson reports had been received.

The State claims that alleged arsonist Zandile Mafe set fire to Parliament as an act of terrorism. The matter has been referred to the Western Cape High Court where a pre-trial hearing will be held on 12 August.

State prosecutor Mervyn Menigo SC indicated the matter was referred to the high court after outstanding damage and arson reports had been received. Most important was the authorisation certificate needed to charge an accused with terrorism, which was received from the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions on 26 May.

To be ironed out in a trial-within-a-trial is the admissibility of an alleged confession that Mafe made. On 3 January, a day after the fire, Dr Zelda van Tonder diagnosed Mafe as a paranoid schizophrenic, but failed to tell the court why she had reached this conclusion. Mafe’s alleged confession was made hours after the mental health report.

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

Mafe’s actions, the State contends, were meant to intimidate, induce or cause a feeling of insecurity to the public, the President of South Africa and his Cabinet ministers.

It is the State’s contention that the plan started on 31 December 2021 when Mafe is alleged to have bought petrol for R10 from a petrol station in Durban Road, Bellville.

“This was poured into an empty Coca-Cola bottle and the accused travelled to the Cape Town city centre. He then sat on the pavement opposite the Plein Street entrance to Parliament, appearing to observe the entrance gate.

“When police officials guarding the entrance left, he scaled the fence and made his way into the Parliament precinct… He also crawled, remaining to lie on his stomach to avoid detection,” the summary of facts reads.

During Mafe’s unsuccessful bail application in the Cape Town Regional Court, Menigo told the court Mafe had spent considerable time inside Parliament.

Magistrate Michelle Adams denied Mafe bail on 4 February. His appeal against this decision was dismissed in the Western Cape High Court on 30 May.

Documents before the court outline how Mafe allegedly collected cardboard boxes, paper and office chairs which he placed under and in front of the closed doors of the offices. Mafe is also alleged to have ripped up curtains and to have used this fabric as additional kindling.

Petrol was then sprinkled over these items and set alight.

The building was in flames when Mafe allegedly exited the Old Assembly through a window, with various stolen items. He was arrested on 2 January as he exited through the window and was taken into custody. The items found on him were confiscated.

The State also contends that Mafe had numerous political, ideological and philosophical motives for his conduct.

He had demanded:

  • The resignations of Ramaphosa and his Cabinet ministers by 8 January;
  • The immediate institution of a basic income grant of R1,500 for all unemployed people;
  • The unconditional release of Chris Hani’s killer, Janusz Walus, by 11 February;
  • The scrapping of TVET colleges and all other forms of higher education; and
  • The scrapping of the positions of deputy president and deputy ministers.

He threatened that if these demands were not met by 8 January, there would be “a second great storm approaching South Africa”.

It is also the State’s contention that Mafe regards the South African government as a dictatorship, which does not care about the people, and claimed that Ramaphosa took trillions of rands to enable US citizens to receive grants from the government. Mafe also claimed that Ramaphosa took trillions of rands to assist refugees from Bangladesh, Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan to the detriment of South Africans.

The defence did not oppose the pre-trial date of 12 August. DM


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