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Alleged Parliament arsonist Mafe ‘unable to follow court proceedings’ or conduct ‘proper defence’

Alleged Parliament arsonist Mafe ‘unable to follow court proceedings’ or conduct ‘proper defence’
Alleged Parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe at the Western Cape High Court on 2 November 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The panel that examined and assessed alleged Parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe has found that he has schizophrenia and is ‘unable to follow the court proceedings so as to make a proper defence’.

Dr Thupana Seshoka, who led an expert panel at Fort England Psychiatric Hospital in the Eastern Cape, told the Western Cape High Court on Thursday that the panel found that alleged Parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe has schizophrenia and should be proclaimed a state patient and admitted to Valkenberg Hospital for treatment and rehabilitation.

Seshoka testified virtually before Judge Nathan Erasmus and was asked by State prosecutor Mervyn Menigo to expand on the procedure and methods used to reach the conclusion.

parliament mafe eramus

Judge Nathan Erasmus at the Western Cape High Court on 2 November 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Mafe has been in jail since his arrest in January 2022 after a fire gutted parts of the National Assembly building in Cape Town. The court ordered that Mafe be sent to the hospital to determine whether he was capable of comprehending the gravity of the charges against him, the crime he allegedly committed and of defending himself in court.

He is accused of setting fire to the National Assembly building in the early hours of 2 January 2022. He faces charges of terrorism, arson, housebreaking, theft and possession of explosives.

On 1 September this year, Judge Erasmus revealed only two points of the report of a panel of psychiatrists and psychologists who evaluated Mafe at Fort England Psychiatric Hospital.

In response to Menigo’s question on the panel’s conclusion, Seshoka said: “The diagnosis in the report is schizophrenia. In the case of the accused, he met the criteria for schizophrenia. The criteria we have found with the accused are the thought processes he presented, with persecutory delusions, which are defined as a false belief that is based on incorrect inferences.

“He has persecutory delusions that are preoccupied with the government, the sitting President, and government officials that are colluding together with white people to kill black people, and that is the reason … he told us that he committed the alleged offence.

“He also went further to warn us as the panel to say the same government and officials are actually plotting against us, [that] they bought people, referring to the taxi owners and drivers, to kill all our families as a panel.”

Maximum security unit

The court heard that on arrival at Fort England, Mafe was admitted to the maximum security unit where observations are conducted. Before he began the assessment, a physical examination was performed.

“The professional nurses in the wards and ward doctor, social worker and occupational therapist had interviews and assessments with Mafe. The professional nurses also monitored his behaviour and conduct during the day and night.

“The reason for their involvement was for us to provide adequate or enough information so that we can arrive at the correct conclusion in terms of the diagnosis and to inform us of the correct recommendation to the court.”

The clinical interviews and assessment with Mafe did not go as expected, and it was difficult during the first two to three weeks, Seshoka said. But, eventually, he began to open up, communicate and engage.

“At times he was even refusing to come to the sessions or talking to us. That we attributed to the psychosis that we saw … [he believed] we are actually colluding with the government and we are working with the white people to kill black people and he is not willing to talk to us because we are also against him and chances are that we also kill him. That is attributed to the psychosis that we observed during the entire assessment,” he testified.

On Mafe’s capacity to follow court proceedings, Seshoka said, “The accused is unable to follow the court proceedings so as to make a proper defence. We came to that conclusion because during the assessment, he found the court to be irrelevant, to be illogical at times, with derailment during most of our engagement with him.

“For those reasons, we felt he will not be able to follow the court proceedings because the chances of displaying the same way he presented during our assessment are very high, and as a result, the court will not also be able to follow what he is trying to say. And we are convinced that he is not able to give proper instruction to his defence.”

On Mafe’s capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions, the panel found that at the time of the alleged offence, he was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of the act in question.

“My Lord, we came to that conclusion simply because we believe as a panel that the accused during the time of the alleged offence was preoccupied with delusions against the government, its officials, the President… because he kept on saying he was even going to burn the Parliament again as long as the current President is the sitting President and he is still believing that current President and other officials are colluding together to finish off the black people in the country.”

According to a separate report on Mafe by defence-appointed private psychiatrist Dr Naseema Cassimjee, Mafe had his first violent psychiatric incident when he was 15. The court heard that Cassimjee arrived at the same diagnosis of schizophrenia, that Mafe was unfit to stand trial, and that at the time of the alleged offence, he was unable to recognise the wrongfulness of his actions.

Timeline of events

  • Zandile Mafe has been in jail since his arrest in January 2022 after a fire gutted parts of Parliament. He is accused of setting fire to the National Assembly building in the early hours of 2 January 2022.
  • District surgeon Dr Zelda van Tonder declared that Mafe was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
  • On 19 January 2022, Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe set aside the referral of Mafe for mental observation and granted an order that he be immediately released to a correctional facility.
  • Cape Town Regional Court Magistrate Michelle Adams on 4 February denied bail to Mafe.
  • Mafe was dealt another blow in his bid to be released when the Western Cape High Court dismissed an appeal to overturn a ruling denying him bail.
  • Mafe said he was ready to be transferred to another facility for mental evaluation, provided it was anywhere but Valkenberg Hospital.
  • Mafe underwent a mental evaluation at Fort England Psychiatric Hospital to determine whether he was mentally capable of comprehending the gravity of the charges against him, the crime he allegedly committed, and defending himself in court.
  • Judge Nathan Erasmus in June 2023 barred reporting on Mafe’s psychiatric assessment.
  • Judge Erasmus released the findings by the psychiatrists and psychologist, which included that Mafe was unable to follow the court proceedings and to conduct a proper defence.

The matter continues on Friday, 3 November. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Farid Esack says:

    Trump displays all the same symptoms in court and probably merits the same consideration – put him a place for people who are severely mentally impaired – either for containment or for possible, albeit improbable at his age, for rehabilitation.

    • Andre Swart says:

      Why did Dali Mpofu defend Mafu?

      Not for money … because Mafe has none!

      Mafe’s deranged hate for Whites corresponds with EFF dogma.

      Who instructed Mafe to burn parliament?

      Same people who burn historical buildings such as churches, museums, city halls and station buuldings?

      Who instructed Mafe to ‘play crazy’ … ? in an attempt to distract focus from his ‘handlers’?

      Who paid for the legal expenses of Mafe?

      We all know the answers to the above questions!

  • Advocacy.el says:

    So what is the problem with Adv Mpofu while the same defence appointed psychologist came to the same conclusion?

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