State hints at evidence linking parliament ‘arsonist’ to crime scene

Terrorism charge formulated after prosecutors watched video footage

Parliament arson accused Zandile Mafe was clean-shaven and neatly dressed in the Cape Town magistrate's court on Tuesday, in contrast to his dishevelled appearance last week.
Parliament arson accused Zandile Mafe was clean-shaven and neatly dressed in the Cape Town magistrate's court on Tuesday, in contrast to his dishevelled appearance last week.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

The state has hinted at evidence linking the man accused of setting the National Assembly alight to the crime.

Zandile Mafe, 49, had a count for contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act added to his charge sheet during his appearance in the Cape Town magistrate's court on Tuesday. This was after the state withdrew a charge of destruction of essential infrastructure against him.

Prosecutor Helene Booysen said the count of terrorism was added after they viewed video footage. The count falls under schedule 6, which places the onus on Mafe to prove it is in the interest of justice for him to be released on bail.

“We finalised the charge sheet yesterday [Monday] after watching video footage,” said Booysen. However, she did not elaborate on the footage.

Mafe’s counsel Dali Mpofu and Booysen butted heads over Mafe’s mental health and bail application. The prosecution revealed that district surgeon Dr Zelda van Tonder had diagnosed Mafe with paranoid schizophrenia. Booysen asked that Mafe be referred to a mental centre for 30 days' observation.

Mpofu sought to poke holes in the state’s application. After consultation Mafe had told him “there is nothing wrong with him”. Mpofu said the state had “ambushed” them with the schedule 6 count.

“He [Mafe] is of the view that after today [Tuesday] he should no longer be in the custody of the state. He will embark on a hunger strike. He says that will be to whatever consequence. He is not prepared to take any food offered by the state. He doesn’t understand why the government that was unable to feed him while he was outside, poor and fending for himself, is now interested to feed him.”

Mafe was not “prepared to trade his liberty for food”.

“Your worship knows what we are dealing with here is the liberty of the accused,” Mpofu said.

“We are simply appealing for his right to apply for bail. Your worship must please take into account that the same state that says there could be an element of incapacity added a case of terrorism.”

Mpofu said investigators visited Mafe’s home in the North West. “They [the state] cannot continue to tarnish the name of the accused.”

Booysen denied that the case was postponed for a bail application. “The record speaks for itself," she said.

The case had been postponed for bail information, not a bail application. The postponement was meant to allow the state to decide the schedule that Mafe’s alleged crime falls under. The postponement was also for the investigating officer to access the crime scene.

Booysen said Mafe cannot hold the state to ransom with a hunger strike.

“If there is a bail application and he doesn’t get released does that mean he will go on hunger strike until he dies?” Booysen asked.

Magistrate Zamekile Mbalo ordered that Mafe be committed to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital.

“There is prima facie evidence before me that the accused may not be fit to stand trial,” said Mbalo.

Mbalo postponed the case to February 11.

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