The man suspected of being behind the fire that ravaged the South African parliament on January 2 in Cape Town was accused on Tuesday of “terrorism”, as many voices were raised to demand the release of this homeless man presented as a scapegoat.
Zandile Christmas Mafe, 49, was arrested on Sunday while in parliament and charged three days later in a brief court appearance in Cape Town. The accused “is guilty of the offense of contravening the provisions of (…) protection of constitutional democracy against terrorism and associated activities”, according to the indictment.
Public prosecutor’s spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila told the press during a recess: “we have added a sixth charge (…) the accused detonated a device in the parliament”. The man was already accused of having entered by “breaking and entering” into the huge building in the center of Cape Town, of having “set fire to the Parliament buildings” and of stealing “laptops, dishes and documents ”.
Protesters demand his release
Since his arrest, many voices have been raised to stress that he was only a scapegoat, while the breaches of security and fire-fighting systems were to be blamed. “Free Mafe! “,” He is innocent! “Showed around thirty demonstrators who came to the Cape Town court on Tuesday at the opening of the hearing. A homeless man was among them to tell his version of the fire this Sunday, January 2 at dawn. He claims he was sleeping on a street alongside the building and heard it sound like a collision. He assures that he then understood that it was a break-in, before the fire broke out in the building.
Defense lawyer Dali Mpofu said Mafe was taken for medical observation on January 3 and diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia”. Dali Mpofu, one of South Africa’s most famous lawyers and who has notably defended former President Jacob Zuma, has indicated that he will seek bail for his client.
According to initial reports from South African authorities, the fire detection system was “defective”. “The sprinklers did not work” and the entire sprinkler system was last overhauled in 2017, with an inspection scheduled for February 2020 not having been carried out, according to these reports.
South African firefighters had fought forty-eight hours before fully mastering the fire which ravaged the premises where the National Assembly meets. No victim had been recorded during this disaster which had ravaged one of the emblematic buildings of South African democracy.