Parliament fire: Accused allegedly found with stolen laptops and documents, court hears

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  • Zandile Mafe appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court on Tuesday morning.
  • Mafe was arrested in connection with the fire at Parliament, which started on Sunday.
  • The State alleged that Mafe had stolen laptops, crockery and documents.

Explosives had allegedly been taken into Parliament while laptops, crockery and documents had been stolen at the time a devastating fire had been set in Parliament over the weekend.

Zandile Mafe, the man arrested in connection with the fire, made his first appearance in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court on Tuesday following his arrest 48 hours earlier.

The State told the court that the 49-year-old man accused of starting the fire at the national key point had also contravened the Explosives Act and had been in possession of explosives.

WATCH | Drone footage shows extent of devastating fire that ripped through Parliament

And more charges are likely to be added in the case against Mafe, a long-time resident of Khayelitsha, who is originally from Mafikeng in North West.

Mafe entered the court room wearing a grey shirt and denim short jeans and washed-out white sneakers. On entering the dock, Mafe removed his mask, making a 360 degree turn as cameras flashed.

The case against Zandile Christmas Mafe, the man a
Zandile Christmas Mafe.

He faces a raft of charges, including charges relating to the Explosives Act, theft, arson and housebreaking.

Members of the Protection and Security Services, a division of the police responsible for security at Parliament, arrested Mafe after noticing that the building was on fire.

The State requested that the matter be postponed for seven days to verify Mafe's personal details for his bail application. They also wanted to wait for the damages at Parliament to be assessed.

The court granted the state a seven-day postponement to conclude its investigations before the case will reconvene on Tuesday, 11 January.

ROLLING LIVE COVERAGE | Parliament fire: Court grants 7-day postponement for inspection, accused to remain in custody

Mafe's legal representative, Luvuyo Godla, said his client denied the charges.

Godla said his client was going to plead not guilty.

"Whether it's in Khayelitsha or Constantia, arson is seen [everywhere]. Our submission is that this man is made a scapegoat of the failure of the executive of the legislature," he said.

Poor

Godla said the state had all the resources, and Mafe was a "poor man" who was being accused of setting Parliament alight.

According to the charge sheet, Mafe stole laptops, crockery and documents at the time he was caught.

Western Cape National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said Mafe faced two counts of arson, possession of explosives and destruction of essential infrastructure. 

"The postponement is for the State to confirm certain information of the accused and to check if he has assets. The investigators have been unable to assess the damages at Parliament. The State will be opposing bail, and more charges are likely to be added," he said.

ALSO READ MORE | Parliament fire: Speaker denies claims she dropped the ball despite security concerns

On Sunday, flames ravaged the parliamentary precinct, destroying the National Assembly and parts of the Old Assembly building.

On Monday afternoon, a strong south-easterly wind in the Mother City reignited the fire in the roof of Parliament. Firefighters managed to contain the blaze around midnight.

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