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Zandile Christmas Mafe – a scapegoat or arsonist mastermind?

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THE court appearance of the man accused of setting Parliament’s fire has raised more questions than answers as Zandile Mafe’s defence lawyer and a homeless activist claim he is being used as a ’scapegoat’.

The 49-year-old made a brief appearance at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on two counts of arson, the possession of an explosive device, house break-in with the intent to steal and theft, and destruction of essential infrastructure following his arrest for the Parliament fire that occurred on Sunday morning.

NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said more charges are likely to be added as investigations continue.

Activist Venetia Orgill, who feeds the homeless in the Cape Town CBD, raised concerns about Mafe’s arrest.

Zandile Mafe allegedly stole laptops, crockery and documents during the Parliament fire. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Orgill, who was watching court proceedings, said she instantly recognised Mafe’s face when he took off his mask in court.


“This is one of the many people I have fed in Cape Town next to Parliament. He was one of my regulars on a Thursday,” she said.

Orgill said her heart dropped when she heard that Mafe was allegedly found with documents and laptops belonging to the state.

“Tell me, why would a hungry man steal such things? How did he get into such a secure place without being noticed?” she added.

“I remember in October last year while feeding the homeless, our dog ran onto Parliament’s garden and within minutes, we had police around us, so how didn’t they notice this man?

“There is something amiss. Yes, maybe they found him inside of Parliament, but I have reason to believe he went in after the fire started. He saw an opportunity and wandered in.”

Mafe’s lawyer, Luvuyo Godla, concurred with Orgill and said he believes his client is being used as a scapegoat.

“My client denies setting the building alight,” he said.

Godla, who represented the Economic Freedom Party, seven years ago in their case to challenge sanctions against their members, during the “pay back the money” saga, told Weekend Argus that he decided to defend Mafe, pro-bono out of his own and did not receive any instruction from the party.

“We cannot allow wool to be pulled over our eyes. That is why I am representing my client,” he said.

More firefighters were called to the scene on Monday afternoon when the fire at Parliament flared up. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

“How can someone who is not even privileged enough to buy bread have access to explosives?

“How would he have information about the security cluster within parliament? Let alone know how to get in and move around parliament?

“It is very clear that there is someone behind this arson, and it is not my client.”

Godla alleged that the person behind the fire had an interest in the documents which were destroyed in the fire.

“From what we know, it is very important information. So I’m saying that the person responsible knew where the documents were and had an interest in burning it, and the police had to arrest someone so that they wouldn’t look like a disgrace, so they arrested my client, who is now the scapegoat.”

The State has indicated that they would oppose bail.

“The State requested the court to postpone the case for the next seven days for bail information. State also requested the postponement in order to determine the schedule under which the accused will be charged as it intends to charge him under Schedule five while the defence insists that he must be charged under Schedule one,” said Ntabazalila.

“The postponement will also provide the investigating officer with an opportunity to visit the crime scene to determine the extent of the damage.”

Mafe is due back in court 11 January 2022.


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