Zandile ‘Christmas’ Mafe was unveiled as the alleged arsonist behind the Parliament fire, when he appeared at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court, on Tuesday.
Zandile Mafe submits ‘not guilty’ plea in Parliament fire case
Represented on a pro bono basis by Advocate Luvuyo Godla, Mafe entered a ‘not guilty’ plea to multiple charges linking him as the person who allegedly lit the match and started the inferno that engulfed South Africa’s National Assembly.
The 49-year-old was arrested on Sunday 2 January 2022, shortly after a fire broke out at Parliament’s Old Assembly. According to Hawks spokesperson Nomthandazo Mbambo, Mafe was caught by protection and security officials after he’d trespassed into Parliament and allegedly tried to make off with stolen goods.
“He was spotted by members of the protection and security services when they noticed the building was on fire. The matter was referred to the Hawks as crimes against the state team for further investigation. The motive for his actions is subject to investigation,” Mbambo added.
Mafe’s first court appearance ended in a postponement. The State, according to NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila, needs time to finalise a number of things concerning the Parliament fire investigation as well as the suspect’s personal information, such as his physical address.
“Investigators have not been able to go to Parliament to assess the damages. By next Tuesday we will have that information,” the NPA said.
Mafe will return to court on Tuesday 11 January 2022 where it’s expected he’ll apply for bail, something the NPA intends to oppose.
Social media questions Mafe’s involvement in the arson
With the Parliament fire finally contained after a second resurgence was seen on Monday, largely prompted by the high south-easterly winds, a fiery debate has taken shape on social media around Mafe.
Following his first public appearance, investigative journalists and concerned citizens believe something is amiss. Despite assertions made by the Hawks that Mafe was seen on CCTV trespassing into Parliament and allegedly stealing property, the general public remains sceptical about his culpability in starting an inferno that raged on for two days.
Calls have since gone out to the Khayelitsha community to help identify Mafe’s family. It’s hoped that this will breed new information that may exonerate the homeless 49-year-old.
Here are some of the reactions we picked out from the debate:
I need people from Khayelitsha who happen to know Zandile Christmas Mafe to come out. Zandile is accused to be behind the #ParliamentFire— Veve (@LudidiVelani) January 4, 2022
What does Zandile Christmas Mafe has to do with burning of parliament?— JESUS is the KING 🇿🇦🇮🇱 (@NkosinatiMagwa) January 4, 2022
Bloody useless SAPS#FreeZandileMafe #FreeZandileMafe
Scapegoat Zondo Ramaphosa Molefe Zuma State Security Senzo Meyiwa #malema Thuli pic.twitter.com/cEEOQ0GBLW
If they say this man, Zandile Mafe knew Parliament Protection officers were not on duty, that nobody was monitoring CCTV cameras, knew water sprinklers were turned off, then the man must be appointed head of Parliamentary Protection Services or Intelligence Operative. Klaar!! pic.twitter.com/pQChkzGvXa— Bra Hloni (@HonourableHloni) January 4, 2022
Minister De Lille confirmed the CCTV cameras were working Sunday morning. We would like to see video evidence of Zandile Mafe in the parliament precinct and also starting the fire that destroyed parliament. Something doesn’t add up here and we can’t keep quiet. pic.twitter.com/Sm59FWgKy1— Vuyo Zungula MP 🇿🇦 (@ZungulaVuyo) January 4, 2022