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Parliament arson-accused Mafe claims he was ’threatened with death sentence’

Arson-accused Zandile Mafe sang and danced outside the Western Cape High Court on Saturday where an urgent bail application was launched. Picture : Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Arson-accused Zandile Mafe sang and danced outside the Western Cape High Court on Saturday where an urgent bail application was launched. Picture : Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 16, 2022


Cape Town - IN his bid for bail and an early exit from a psychiatric hospital, Parliament arson accused Zandile Mafe has made damning allegations against police – from intimidation and death threats, to being forced to carry boxes from the scene of the crime.

Yesterday, advocate Dali Mpofu and attorney Luvuyo Godla filed a notice of motion for an urgent bail application at the Western Cape High Court, just two days after Mafe began a 30-day observation period at the Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital.

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Outside the court, a group of his supporters from the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) and the Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO) protested and called for Mafe’s release. There was a heavy police presence, with some streets near the court cordoned off hours before proceedings began.

In their application, Mafe’s lawyers claim their client should never have been remanded in custody for seven days pending a bail hearing.

Representing the State, Helene Booysen speaks to Mafe’s senior council advocate Dali Mphofu before an urgent application for bail at the High Court for Zandile Christmas Mafe. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

“Nowhere in South Africa is it allowed. An accused can only be remanded for seven days at a time, and our client now has to wait 30 days for a bail-application outcome, due to him being sent to Valkenberg for observation, that is why we handed in the notice of motion for an urgent bail application,” said Mpofu.

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However, proceedings for a bail hearing did not get far yesterday. Western Cape Judge President John Hlope said he first needed to address the defence’s arguments that Mafe’s referral to Valkenberg was illegal.

On Thursday, Magistrate Zamekile Mbalo signed the order to have Mafe referred for observation, following a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia by district surgeon Dr Zeland van Tonder.

Hlope said he was made aware that the referral had been challenged on the basis of it allegedly being unlawful and wrongful. However, he, as a single judge, could not overrule a competent ruling and would need input from another judge.

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“The accused’s defence are questioning whether this ruling was made properly, so these allegations of unlawfulness must be interrogated. We cannot just ignore the elephant in the room,” he said.

“The matter is of grave public importance, so we should stick to facts. The hearing regarding the challenge of referral will also pave the way to my decision about the notice of motion.”

Spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Eric Ntabazalila, said the order came after the State successfully argued that the court has an obligation to send the accused for mental observation subsequent to a diagnosis and recommendation by a district surgeon.

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Despite the urgent motion not being heard, a 16-page affidavit from Mafe revealed that the 40-year-old intended to deny all the charges against him.

Mafe faces charges of housebreaking with the intention to commit theft, arson, malicious injury to property and offences in terms of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorism and Related Activities Act.

“I am not a terrorist. I am an ordinary and destitute South African, like millions of my fellow citizens. Like them, I am angry about my conditions, but I am not a violent person. I am not insane,” the affidavit states.

Zandile Christmas Mafe before his make-over. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Mafe also detailed the moments leading up to his arrest, stating that he was asleep in front of the Parliament precinct and was woken up by the police.

“Prior to my arrest, I had been sleeping outside the precinct of the building known as the South African Parliament and was woken up by members of the South African Police Services (SAPS). I then noticed for the first time Parliament building ablaze with black smoke escaping from the roof,” the document states.

“It is worth mentioning that at the time of my arrest I was severely and violently manhandled and intimidated by the members of SAPS, who also dragged me into the precinct of the Parliament where I was given boxes to carry by those members of SAPS. I do not know what the contents of the boxes were. My own belongings were confiscated by the SAPS.”

Mafe goes on to allege that he was then accused of causing the fire.

“I denied this. I was then taken to Cape Town Central Police Station. A few hours later, I was booked out by an unknown man and taken to an unknown place. We travelled by car to an unknown place. At the place, an unknown white man told me that I would be sentenced to death for burning Parliament unless I cooperated with them. I was terrified and as a result I promised to “cooperate” with whatever they may require of me. However, that turned out to be an empty promise from the white man as I was not released.”

In his responding affidavit, State prosecutor Adrian Gelderblom said the matter should not have been brought before the High Court.

“I respectfully submit that the present application is materially defective and should not be heard by this honourable court. Due to the extreme time constraints placed on the State to respond to the application, issues of a legal nature will be addressed and amplified at the hearing of the matter,” it states.

“I do not intend addressing the founding affidavit.”

Representing the State Mark Owen, Helene Booysen and Adrian Gelderblom in the court room before an urgent application for bail at the high court for Zandile Christmas Mafe. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency(ANA)

Gelderblom further stated that Mafe’s urgent bail application should instead be dealt with by the lower court tasked with the hearing of the matter.

The notice of motion will be heard next Saturday, after Hlope meets with his colleague for the hearing of the challenge on Tuesday, January 18.