Parliament Fire: Accused Christmas Mafe Not Well, Sent For Observation

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The 49-year-old man accused of setting fire to the Parliament buildings has been sent to a psychiatric hospital for observation after his second appearance on Tuesday at Cape Town Magistrate’s Court.

Jobless Zandile Christmas Mafe, who has gained a lot of sympathisers since his first appearance, was represented by Advocate Dali Mpofu SC.

ARSON ACCUSED: Zandile Christmas Mafe during his first appearance last week

The fire at Parliament took two days to bring under control and by the time it was doused the roof had carved in. Cracks had also appeared in some of the walls.

On Tuesday, the court heard that the defence had been presented with medical documents that show Mafe suffers from “paranoid schizophrenia” – a serious mental disorder in which sufferers interpret reality abnormally that can manifest in delusions and hallucinations.

Mpofu described the move to present the medical documents at “the 11th hour” as “an ambush”.

Unbeknownst to his defence lawyers, Mafe was taken for a diagnosis of his mental state.

Unlike his first appearance, this time Mafe was well-groomed – gone was the unkempt hair and shabby clothes.

The defence argued that their client has told them that “there is nothing wrong with him” and he would like to be released on bail rather than being sent to a psychiatric hospital.

The court also heard that Mafe has threatened to go on hunger strike if his bail application did not start today.

“Mafe doesn’t understand why the government that was unable to feed him while he was outside, is now interested to feed him and he is not prepared to trade his liberty for food,” argued the defence.

They further argued that he was entitled to bail.

However, Senior State Advocate Helene Booysen said Mafe was facing very serious schedule six charges and was therefore not entitled to bail but a bail hearing.

The state has added a terrorism charge to the multiple offences Mafe allegedly committed. Mafe faces other charges including, breaking and entering, theft, arson, and breaching the National Key Point Act.

Booysen was dismissive of Mafe’s threats of a hunger strike saying: “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 opposed bail and instead suggested Mafe be sent for mental observation.
Magistrate Zamekile Mbalo agreed with Booysen that there was prima facie evidence that the accused suffered from a mental challenge.

Magistrate Mbalo ruled in favour of the National Prosecutions Authority, saying the accused must be sent for mental observation.

Mafe denies the charges and pleads not guilty

The accused will be under observation for 30 days at the Valkenberg Hospital – a large, government-funded, tertiary psychiatric hospital in Cape Town.

Costs of the fire damage were estimated at more than R200 million excludes the cost of furniture, laptops, carpets, sound equipment, and other movable assets.

Investigations into the matter are continuing and Mafe will be brought back to court on 11 February.

Outside the court, civil groups and ordinary people carried placards in support of the accused. They were demanding Mafe’s immediate release.