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Parliament fire suspect 'scapegoat for failure of the executive' at the national key point

Zandile Christmas Mafe looked disoriented and confused when he appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday in connection with the fire in Parliament. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Zandile Christmas Mafe looked disoriented and confused when he appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday in connection with the fire in Parliament. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 5, 2022

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Cape Town - Suspected arsonist Zandile Mafe’s lawyer says his client will plead not guilty after his arrest on Sunday in connection with a fire which gutted Parliament and took firefighters almost three days to extinguish.

Mafe, 49, according to submissions in court, was a tenant in Khayelitsha. He previously lived in Langa but originally came to Cape Town from Mahikeng in the North West six years ago.

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Luvuyo Godla, who had previously acted on behalf of the EFF in their legal challenge against former Parliament speaker Thandi Modise, represented Mafe at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court.

Mafe has been charged with two counts of arson and two counts of housebreaking with intent to steal and theft. He has also been charged with discharging explosives and damaging or destroying essential infrastructure.

He was arrested in the parliamentary precinct on Sunday, and is accused of setting fire to property of the State, leading to the destruction of both houses of Parliament.

Court papers also revealed that items stolen by Mafe include laptops, crockery and documents.

State Prosecutor Adnaan Gelderbloem said in court that the State will be opposing bail, and requested a remand to allow the State to get confirmation from the Director of Public Prosecutions for the schedule of offences.

Gelderbloem said there had been challenges for the State with regards to the charges because investigating officer Christiaan Theron had not been allowed to enter the crime scene as it was still unsafe.

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Godla said the State had ample time to gather the necessary information in order to proceed with the case.

Magistrate Zamekile Mbalo ordered the matter be postponed for further investigation. Mafe will return to court on January 11.

NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said: “The postponement will provide the investigating officer, Colonel Theron, with an opportunity to visit the crime scene to determine the extent of the damage. More charges are likely to be added as the investigation continues.”

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Video: Armand Hough/African News Agency

Outside the court, Godla said his client was the "scapegoat for failure of the executive" at the national key point.

“Our submission is this: surely this man is made a scapegoat for failures of the executive and legislature. There is no point to say we are not ready when in fact they alleged that the most important point of the country has been destroyed,” said Godla.

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On Monday firefighters worked through the night to extinguish the fire after it re-ignited at the National Assembly due to south-easterly winds.

The City’s Fire and Rescue chief, Jermaine Carelse, said operations at Parliament have since been decreased as firefighters have worked overnight to extinguish hot embers.

He is hopeful that by today the incident will be closed so normality can be restored to the CBD. He said forensic investigators are anxious to start the investigation and the building is expected to be safe for entry today.

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