Mafe gets go ahead for urgent challenge to psychiatric evaluation

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Alleged arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe appears at Cape Town Magistrates Court in connection with the fire at Parliament.
Alleged arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe appears at Cape Town Magistrates Court in connection with the fire at Parliament.
(Photo by Gallo Images/Daily Maverick/Leila Douga
  • Zanidle Mafe insists that he does not need psychiatric observation after being accused of starting the fire at Parliament. 
  • His lawyers secured an urgent court date on Saturday to challenge the order that he be evaluated for 30 days before being considered for bail.
  • It was postponed to Tuesday to challenge the psychiatric referral, and his bail application will be heard next Saturday. 

Zandile Mafe just wants a chance to apply for bail, and get a chance to be heard, instead of being subjected to a 30-day psychiatric evaluation after being accused of burning down large parts of Parliament.

His lawyers Advocate Dali Mpofu and Luvuyo Godla agree, saying he has not been afforded proper processes, such as the right not to stay in custody more than seven days before being allowed to apply for bail.  

"It is our take, it is our view, you don't simply look at someone and you feel that, well, I don't particularly like this person and... therefore I doubt his mental ability and you simply refer [for psychiatric evaluation]." said Godla outside court. 

READ | Parliament fire: Zandile Mafe's bail application postponed until next week

He said Mafe was surprised when his bail application before Magistrate Zamekile Mbalo turned into a referral for 30 days' observation at the Valkenberg psychiatric facility in Cape Town, and was so appalled that he began a hunger strike.

"There are procedures and there are rules that should be followed," said Godla.

He was speaking outside the Western Cape High Court on Saturday after an urgent bail application was meant to have been heard by Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

Mafe insists that he has the right to apply for bail now, and should not have to wait out the 30 days' observation period at Valkenberg Hospital.

Goldla said that Mafe also insists that he is not guilty.

At his previous appearance at the Cape Town Magistrate's Court, the court heard that Mafe had been taken for a consultation with district surgeon Zelda van Tonder, who had diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia just before his first court appearance.

READ | Parliament fire: 13 months after recommendation to appoint fire consultant, dept still working on it

Mafe was then referred for the observation period, which he is challenging. This court challenge was postponed on Saturday to Tuesday, with the hope that a judgment will be handed down on the same day. 

It will be followed by the rescheduled bail application in the Western Cape High Court next Saturday.

Saturday's proceedings were limited to two media houses, with the court citing Covid-19 social distancing rules when limiting numbers, and saying that journalists should have applied for permission to attend proceedings.

The streets around the court were closed by yellow police tape. A protest in support of Mafe by the Azanian People's Organisation of SA was held back at the corner of Long Street and Leeuwen Street, to the anger of supporters. 

Western Cape High Court
The Western Cape High Court.

"It shows that there is no democracy in this country," said Zukile Singama, who identified himself as an Azapo provincial organiser, on hearing they could go no closer and that most of the media could not go into the court. 

"They talk about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but now the press is not allowed to get into the court. What freedom?" he asked, as supporters said Mafe is innocent. 

Godla said the legal team was pleased that processes were on track, and that they could deal with the "elephant in the kitchen" - Mafe's referral for observation quickly. The mental observation started on Thursday.

In the meantime, the lawyers will update Mafe on the latest developments, and Godla said hopefully he will reconsider the hunger strike he began on 11 January.

He still faces five charges which include arson, theft and Contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.

Godla said Mafe just wants a chance to be heard. 

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