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Parly fire: Mafe takes stand

Zandile Christmas Mafe, the man accused of setting fire to Parliament, appears for the second time at the Cape Town Magistrate’s court. l File

Zandile Christmas Mafe, the man accused of setting fire to Parliament, appears for the second time at the Cape Town Magistrate’s court. l File

Published Nov 4, 2023

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Alleged Parliament arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe denies he has a mental illness, saying instead that he is intelligent as he admitted to setting the National Assembly alight.

Mafe, who is originally from Mafikeng, dropped several bombshells at the Western Cape High Court yesterday ( Friday) at a special inquiry by the courts to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

He boldly took the stand where he slammed the state psychiatrists at Fort England Psychiatric Hospital in Makhanda where he was taken for observation. He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.

During court proceedings on Thursday, state psychiatrist, Dr TN Seshoko, told the court that the evaluation took longer than expected as Mafe often refused to co-operate.

He told the court that Mafe had often refused to attend the sessions with psychiatrists and one occasion when he did attend, he wore nothing but a towel.

Seshoko said while at the facility, he claimed that he set the building alight because he believed that President Cyril Ramaphosa was “working with white people to kill black people”.

He said Mafe also claimed that other patients were jealous of his hairstyle. He also claimed that another patient who had been referred to the facility from a prison in the Eastern Cape was in fact one of his former fellow inmates at Pollsmoor Prison and had been brought by government officials to Fort England to kill him.

Addressing various aspects of the State’s case, Mafe confirmed that he set the National Assembly alight in a bid to prevent the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that year.

He claimed the annual address by Ramaphosa should be considered the “State on Nonsense Address”, saying poor people continued to suffer and claimed there were no real changes in the country.

Mafe allegedly gave Ramaphosa and his Cabinet six days to resign from office and warned that a “second great storm” would be approaching South Africa.

He further demanded that all South Africans be granted a special grant of R1 500 to ease their struggles.

Mafe said on arrival at Fort England, doctors realised he was intelligent and not mad and claims this was the reason the evaluation took two months to complete. He compared himself to King Solomon in the Bible.

“The prosecutor said the accused is very intelligent, very clever, very wise like King Solomon. The doctors defined it as a mental illness. When I arrived at that place (Fort England) I find no that place is for mad people. I was shocked. Even the people there, the doctors and psychologists, were shocked. They (asked) what was wrong with me? That is why it took two months; they were surprised.”

His lawyer, Dali Mpofu SC, told the court that his client had been labelled as a lunatic “by all and sundry” and told Judge Nathan Erasmus that just because psychiatrists did not agree with Mafe’s political views it didn’t make him delusional.

During cross examination Mafe shocked the court when he likened himself to former president Nelson Mandela. He claimed that after setting Parliament alight he would be sent to prsison for 25 years where he could obtain a law degree and claims he would then be named the new president.

He further said he did not break into the National Assembly but had been told by someone he could enter the parliamentary precinct through an open door and would go undetected because police officers would allegedly be drunk.

He claimed to have entered carrying a backpack containing sandwiches and walked openly with a canister of petrol. He says he enjoyed three days inside the National Assembly and enjoyed riding in the lifts.

Mafe also mocked firefighters, saying it took them three days to extinguish the blaze that he started on his own in one day.

Judgement will be handed down on 11 December.

Weekend Argus

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Crime and courts