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Alleged Parliament arsonist: State is not interested in ambushing anyone, says Eric Ntabazalila

The case against Zandile Mafe has been postponed to February 11 for observation as he is expected to spend 30 days at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for mental evaluation. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

The case against Zandile Mafe has been postponed to February 11 for observation as he is expected to spend 30 days at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for mental evaluation. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 12, 2022

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Cape Town - A day after President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address, Parliament fire accused Zandile Mafe will make his way back to court.

The case against the 49-year-old accused has been postponed to February 11 for observation as he is expected to spend 30 days at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for mental evaluation.

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He faces an additional terrorism charge following the blaze, which caused severe destruction to the National Assembly and Old Assembly buildings.

Magistrate Zamekile Mbalo ordered Mafe to undergo a mental evaluation at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for the next 30 days to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

“The court is making the order that the accused be admitted to a mental institution for the purpose of observation,” Mbalo said.

National Prosecuting Authority in the Western Cape spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the State was not interested in ambushing anyone.

Mafe’s defence team consists of Advocate Dali Mpofu and Luvuyo Godla. He also faces charges of housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, two counts of arson and the possession of an explosive device.

The State sent Mafe for psychiatric evaluation on January 3, according to Godla, at a time when the accused had no legal representation. The diagnosis revealed that Mafe suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

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Mpofu requested a short adjournment to consult with his client. He stated that the defence were left surprised on Tuesday morning with the additional charge of terrorism, which is a schedule 6 offence, and the medical report diagnosis.

Speaking to journalists outside court, Ntabazalila said: “We are not interested in ambushing anyone. Our focus is, and will always be, on providing and ensuring that charges are brought against the accused in a manner that is fair to the accused himself, and to us.

“We did not intend to ambush the accused with that letter. The fact of the matter is that the accused was sent for observation and the observation came back saying the accused is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.”

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Mpofu and Godla expressed shock after learning that an application had been put forward for Mafe to be referred to Valkenberg. Godla said: “It was a surprise to ourselves. We were very shocked. We have noted that he was referred on the 3rd of this month … At that stage he was not legally represented.”

Last week, during his first court appearance, Godla said his client was not the person who should have been apprehended. Furthermore, he added that Mafe denied and rejected the charges and would plead not guilty.

The Hawks are investigating the circumstances around the two-day fire that started last week.

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Since the fire left the National Assembly gutted, Parliament had sought alternative venues to proceed with matters of the House, including the State of the Nation Address which, will take place on February 10, and the Budget speech.

Ramaphosa is expected to deliver the State of the Nation Address at the City Hall, while the Budget speech will take place within the precincts of Parliament, in the Good Hope Chamber.

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Political Bureau

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