/ 11 December 2023

Alleged parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe ‘unfit to stand trial’

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Zandile Mafe, who faces charges of terrorism and arson, on Wednesday admitted in the Western Cape high court that he had set fire to parliament at the beginning of last year. (Photo by Xabiso Mkhabela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The lawyer for Zandile Mafe signalled his intention to file an appeal after the Western Cape high court ruled  on Monday that his client was not fit to stand trial for allegedly setting fire to parliament in January 2022.

“Mr Mafe is not capable of understanding the proceedings as to make a proper defence and, therefore, my finding is in concurrence with the experts — he is unfit to stand trial,” Judge Nathan Erasmus said.

He noted that several psychiatrists had assessed Mafe to determine his fitness to be tried, given his erratic behaviour during court appearances.

After Mafe’s legal representative, advocate Dali Mpofu, questioned whether a Fort England Psychiatric Hospital report on Mafe met the requirements of the law that determines fitness to stand trial, the judge found that it complied with the Criminal Procedure Act.

Mafe was arrested not far from the National Assembly in Cape Town on 2 January 2022, the same day he allegedly started the fire which gutted the precinct. He was charged with  housebreaking, terrorism, arson and theft.

During a court appearance in July, Mafe went on a rant about various subjects ranging from race relations and land ownership to leading figures in the Democratic Alliance, saying he had burnt down parliament because it was useless and should be moved to Bloemfontein.

“I want that parliament, which I burned. Me,” Mafe said at the time, pointing at himself. “I burned it so that it must move [from] here. It must be changed to be a public toilet. That parliament must go to Bloemfontein.”

On Monday, Judge Erasmus said a psychiatrist had labelled Mafe “delusional”, described his behaviour as “strange and inappropriate” and diagnosed him with a psychotic spectrum disorder, likely to be schizophrenia.

Mpofu insisted there was nothing wrong with his client and said that the defence would file an appeal against the psychiatric report.