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Parliament fire: Hawks tell family Mafe confessed to starting the blaze

The man accused of burning the National Assembly, Zandile Christmas Mafe appeared at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court. PHANDO JIKELO African News Agency (ANA)

The man accused of burning the National Assembly, Zandile Christmas Mafe appeared at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court. PHANDO JIKELO African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 8, 2022


Cape Town - The man who has been dominating headlines for the past few days, has confessed to starting the fire that ripped through two buildings in the Parliament precinct.

A high-level source in the Hawks said Zandile Christmas Mafe confessed to starting the fire that caused damaged to Parliament’s New and Old Assembly this week.

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The source, who declined to be named, said: "(Mafe) confessed and even showed us how he started the fire. But he does not want to disclose how he gained access. Also on the footage, it does not show how he gained access, only when he is leaving through a window where he was found by cops."

Mafe was arrested the same day the fire broke out.

Luvuyo Godla, the lawyer representing Mafe, insisted the confession was coerced and would not stand up in a court of law.

“There is no such thing. They were on a fishing expedition (in Mahikeng). They put him (Mafe) under duress to force out a confession from him. The court proceedings were flawed and I am yet to receive copies of the charge sheet.”

Godla said his client was not read his rights ahead of the confession being obtained.

The Weekend Argus can also reveal that investigators were at Mafe’s home in Mahikeng on Thursday and yesterday.

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Mafe’s brother Zamile Matiwane said the Hawks informed him on Friday that his brother had confessed to starting the fire.

“I asked what evidence they had to show that he confessed and they could not tell me. I asked who was present when he confessed and they said it was in the presence of the judge.”

Matiwane said he did not believe that his brother confessed but alleged the investigators are trying hard to pin the fire on him.

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“They asked about his political affiliation, whether he was in the country in December and the schools he had attended.”

Hawks spokesperson Thandi Mbambo declined to confirm if they received a confession from Mafe and that their investigators were in Mahikeng.

“All will be revealed on Tuesday during the bail application process,” she said.

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Mafe is charged with two counts of arson, theft, housebreaking, contravening explosives act. The National Prosecuting Authority indicated that more charges could be added.

He said there are possibilities that the case might be thrown out of court as the Hawks have not shown evidence other than catching him on the premises.

Godla said when his client made a 360 degree turn on his first appearance, it was due to confusion.

“He was overwhelmed, there were many people inside the court, even the magistrate could not see him properly. I have seen suspects seated down after immediately after entering the dock.”

The Weekend Argus has it on good authority that senior counsel advocate Dali Mpofu will be part of legal team representing the accused.

Speaking to the Weekend Argus, from Pollsmoor Prison earlier this week, Mafe said he was innocent of the charges.

“I did not do it and I am not a mad man. I am not sad that Parliament burnt down because it does not do anything to alleviate my life and those of people like me.”

He did not say how he ended up inside Parliament but said he went there early because he wanted to be first in the queue when the soup kitchen opened.

The City of Cape Town found that Parliament was not compliant with many fire safety regulations. The report found that National Assembly sprinkler valves were not serviced since 2017. The report also stated that it was unclear if fire alarm and detection system were operational.

“No fire alarm was received by Cape Town Fire Service from the old or new National Assembly buildings. An alarm was received after the fire fighters were already on scene from Tuynhuys adjacent to the assembly buildings,” read the report.

The National Department of Public Works and Infrastructure said the report related to the inspections of the Parliamentary Precinct ahead of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Sonas.

“Subsequent to the servicing ahead of 2021 Sona, there was a widespread power outage across the Cape Town CBD on 17th December 2021, resulting in additional checks of the fire systems. The fire systems were reset, checked and confirmed functional by contractors on the 21st December 2021 following the power outage.”

The department said the fire is still under investigation and all enquiries must be directed to the Hawks.

Weekend Argus