WATCH | Parliament fire - what we know so far

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  • The man accused of setting fire to Parliament has embarked on a hunger strike.
  • Zandile Mafe is being represented by senior counsel, Dali Mpofu.
  • Mafe made his second court appearance earlier this week when the court heard that he may not be fit to stand trial as he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

The devastating fire at Parliament on 2 January has been dominating headlines, as South Africans wait to find out more about the man who was allegedly behind the blaze, and how he was able to access a building of such national importance, undetected.

Zandile Mafe faces a number of charges, including a charge relating to the Explosives Act, theft, arson and housebreaking. On Tuesday, Mafe made his second appearance at the Cape Town Magistrate's Court where a charge of contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act, was added. This is a schedule 6 offence.

State prosecutor Helene Booysen told the court that Mafe suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and handed in a report from a district surgeon. The State requested that Mafe be referred to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for 30 days observation as he may be unfit to stand trial. 

READ | Scapegoat or terrorist? 8 things you need to know about Parliament fire accused Zandile Mafe

But, senior counsel Dali Mpofu, who is acting for Mafe, told the court that there was nothing wrong with his client and that Mafe would immediately embark on a hunger strike. The court ordered Mafe be sent for observation, and postponed the case to 11 February.

Since the devastating fire, some damning allegations had come to light. Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, revealed that a water valve leading to the fire sprinklers had been closed and was potentially the reason the fire was not contained as soon as it started.

CCTV cameras were working at the time, but she said no one was monitoring the feed. Furthermore, the fire doors that were installed in Parliament were rendered useless because "cheap latches" were installed to keep the doors open.

Initial assessments indicated that the flames did not reach the historic library and museum room which housed irreplaceable artefacts, including the lyrics to "Die Stem" by CJ Langenhoven. 

Jack van der Lecq, the architect who planned and designed the National Assembly building, believed it could cost as much as R1 billion to rebuild. 

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