Mafe admits: ‘I set parliament on fire’


Zandile Mafe, the man accused of starting last year’s devastating fire at the parliamentary complex in Cape Town, had to try to calm him down in the Cape Town High Court on Thursday.

Mafe came screaming out of the detention cells and then had a 15-minute outburst in court.

According to Eric Ntabazalila, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Mafe admitted during the outburst that he had set fire to the parliament building and that “he will burn it down again unless it is moved to Bloemfontein or Pretoria”.

He also made political statements in which he said that protests had taken place in the country because of his detention.

Judge Nathan Erasmus said after Mafe’s outburst that Mafe will not be able to follow the court proceedings or present a proper defence, as he does not realize the illegality of his actions.

The defense had to intervene to help calm Mafe down so the proceedings could continue.

“The defense counsel requested a six-week extension to find a psychiatrist of their choice who will consult with Mafe and the panel of experts and then compile a report. This will help them determine whether they will dispute the report of the panel of the Fort England psychiatric hospital,” says Ntabazalila.

The defense told the court they struggled to get a psychiatrist to help, but have now secured the services of an expert.

Erasmus was not to be found with this and said that he had sent an e-mail earlier this week to inquire about the state of affairs with the parties.

“I have not received any response except from the prosecutor who says that he has sent emails to the defense but that he has not received a response. It was to prepare myself for today’s hearing which is in the middle of a court recess. We made ourselves available, we arranged with the IT department in the courthouse and everyone else to be here. This is absolutely unacceptable,” the judge said.

Erasmus stressed that Mafe has the right to dispute the report.

“On the other hand, I cannot blame Mafe, who is sitting in a hospital ward in prison, for what happened today. I also understand that the accused was detained in the Eastern Cape and only brought here shortly before his court appearance. So it would have been difficult to engage with the content of the report.

“I find that delay unacceptable, although I have allowed this matter to be considered until today, whether or not the defense wants to challenge the findings of the panel, as the state has indicated that they accept the report.”

Erasmus then granted a final postponement until 10 August.

RNews previously reported that Mafe was admitted to the hospital of Pollsmoor Prison last month. This follows his admission in March to the Fort England psychiatric hospital in the Eastern Cape where he was sent for 30 days of observation to determine if he was sane on the day of the crime.

Erasmus recently received an electronic report from experts who carried out Mafe’s psychiatric observation. The content of the report has still not been made public.

Mafe is on trial on charges of housebreaking with the intention of starting a fire, arson, terrorism and theft. The complaint stems from the fire on 2 January last year at the parliament.

Read the previous reports on the case here.