Zandile Christmas Mafe from Khayelitsha, the alleged parliament arsonist appears at Cape Town magistrate's court on January 4 2022, Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ESA ALEXANDER
Zandile Christmas Mafe from Khayelitsha, the alleged parliament arsonist appears at Cape Town magistrate's court on January 4 2022, Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ESA ALEXANDER

Zandile Christmas Mafe, a 49-year-old from Khayelitsha, on Tuesday appeared before a Cape Town magistrate in connection with  the fire that gutted the new National Assembly building in the parliamentary precinct.

Mafe removed his face mask and posed for cameras, turning around to give every photographer a chance to get a picture.

He faces five charges including housebreaking and theft after he allegedly stole laptops, crockery and documents from parliament, according to the charge sheet.

He also faces two charges of arson for allegedly setting the National Assembly building on fire and a charge of contravening the Explosives Act. The case was postponed to January 11.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said investigators had not been able to enter parliament to assess the extent of the damage.

“The counts include housebreaking with the intent to steal, theft, two counts of arson, possession of an explosive device and destruction of essential infrastructure,” he said.

“The crime scene was active until late yesterday. When we come back next Tuesday, I am sure we will have that information. The defence intends applying for bail. The state will oppose bail and more charges are likely to be added as the investigation continues.”

There was a dispute in court between Mafe’s lawyer and the prosecution over the charges he is facing.

“The state wants to charge him under schedule 5 (for) the destruction of key infrastructure, a [national] key point,” Ntabazalila said.

“The policy allows us to charge him under schedule 5. The defence wants him to be charged under schedule 1. The issue with that is that it talks about onus in terms of the bail application. If we charge him under schedule 5, the onus will be on him to prove to the court he deserves to be released on bail.

“If he is charged under schedule 1, the onus is on us to show the accused does not deserve to be released on bail, and it also talks about the seriousness of the charges he is facing.”

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