Mafe disputes psychiatric reports


Zandile Mafe, the man accused of starting last year’s devastating fire at the parliamentary complex in Cape Town, is now challenging the findings of a panel of psychiatrists and an independent expert selected by his own defence.

He is confused as to why he is said to be unable to follow and understand court procedures.

Mafe’s legal representative, Luvuyo Godla, confirmed outside the court on Friday that Mafe disputes both reports in which it is recommended that he is unfit to stand trial on charges that he burned down the parliament.

According to Eric Ntabazalila, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), an investigation will now follow regarding Mafe’s understanding of the illegality of his actions after he rejected the reports.

Mafe will be questioned on 2 and 3 November in terms of section 77 of the Criminal Procedure Act to determine whether he will indeed be able to follow the court process.

“Section 77(4) of the Criminal Procedure Act (Act 51 of 1977) deals with the treatment of an accused who is unfit to stand trial due to mental illness or intellectual disability. While such a person cannot be tried, they are not acquitted and dismissed, as the court must determine in terms of the law whether the person in question is the actus reus of the crime he was charged with,” explains Ntabazalila.

“If the accused is found unfit to stand trial, this leaves the court with no other choice but to order detention in some form, such as a psychiatric hospital.”

After his arrest, Mafe was taken to a district doctor to confirm that he was not assaulted or injured, when he was about to confess. A district physician, dr. Zelda van Tonder, diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia and based on that recommendation, the state applied for him to be admitted to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital. This was overturned at the High Court after the then Judge President, John Hlophe, declared the order to take Mafe illegal.

Although the issue of referral for evaluation was off the table for a short period, the defense brought it back, and Mafe was referred to the Fort England psychiatric hospital in the Eastern Cape for 30 days. After completing the evaluation, Judge Nathan Erasmus told the court that Mafe would not be able to follow court proceedings and make a proper defense as he could not realize the wrongfulness of his actions. He did not release the entire report.

During an outburst in court in July, Mafe admitted 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.

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

Read the previous reports on the case here.