Parliament fire: Alleged arsonist’s bail appeal dismissed

Zandile Mafe, who is accused of setting parliament on fire on 2 January, will remain in custody after his second bid for bail was dismissed in the Western Cape high court on Monday. 

Mafe’s lawyer Luvuyo Godla told reporters outside court that the defence accepted the court’s verdict, but added: “We will now sit and reflect comprehensively [on] the decision of the court today. After consideration of the judgement, if it needs us to still appeal up until the last court of the land, we will surely do so.”

Mafe faces six charges, including a schedule 6 offence for terrorism under the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act, housebreaking with intent to steal, theft, two counts of arson, and one of being in possession of explosives.

On Monday, the court re-heard arguments for and against bail from the state and defence, following an earlier split verdict from judges Daniel Thulare and James Lekhuleni. A third judge, Noluthando Nziweni, was appointed to the matter and joined Thulare in dismissing Mafe’s application. Lekhuleni made a dissenting minority judgment in favour of bail.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, for the accused, had argued that his client’s constitutional rights were being infringed on. Mafe has been in custody for nearly five months since his arrest on 2 January. 

Facing a schedule six offence, Mafe needed to present exceptional circumstances for the court to consider bail. Mpofu argued having the onus fall on the defence to prove exceptional circumstances was “like a red flag, overwriting all his (Mafe’s) constitutional rights”. He said the state, including the police, prosecutors and the magistrate who first denied Mafe bail, had all failed his client.

The state said Mafe had refused to confirm his affidavit and had failed to respond to video footage which showed him walking around the parliament precinct for hours before setting it alight.   

“He did nothing to favour his bail application. He could have put forward exceptional circumstances, but he remained silent,” senior prosecutor advocate Mervyn Menigo argued.

Mafe is expected to appear in the Cape Town magistrate court on 9 June, where the state will present outstanding reports. Prosecutors have previously indicated that the matter will be transferred to the Western Cape high court.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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