South Africa parliament arson suspect on a “hunger strike’

“The hunger strike begins now, tell them that they have started a war!”

These were the defiant words of Parliament arson suspect Zandile Christmas Mafe as he whispered to his lawyer Advocate Dali Mpofu minutes after he found out he will go for a mental observation within 30 days.

The 49-year-old was almost unrecognisable as he showed up in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court with his head and face shaved and wearing formal clothes.

The court heard that Mafe will now be facing charges of terrorism, theft, housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, two counts of arson, possession of an explosive device.

The destruction of an essential infrastructure charge has been dropped.

The Khayelitsha man was apprehended hours after the blaze that gutted the National Assembly on 2 January.

Mpofu argued that he had been in custody for 10 days and that he must be granted an opportunity to apply for bail.

“He doesn’t understand why the government which was not able to feed him when he was poor on the outside, now wants to feed him while in custody,” said Mpofu.

“He is being victimised and targeted because he is poor.

“He also said there is nothing wrong with him, none of what is said can justify the further abuse of his liberty. He will not trade his liberty for food.”

Zandile Christmas Mafe made his second appearance in court today.

State Prosecutor for Organised Crimes Helene Booysen wanted Mafe to be admitted for 30 days to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for observation, following a diagnosis by the District Surgeon on 03 January.

Mpofu said the state handed over three documents to the defence which they had not read before proceedings started.

“He wants the court to know if he is not given the opportunity for a bail application or released as from this moment, he will embark on a hunger strike.

“He is not doing that to place any particular pressure on the state,” said Mpofu.

In the end, Magistrate Zamekile Mbalo ruled in favour of the state and Mafe was remanded in custody until there is a bed available for him at Valkenberg.

His next court appearance is on 11 February for the report of the observation, while the defense team is working on applying for bail before the next court date.

Mafe stood in the dock, shaking his head in disagreement with the state and the ruling.

His cousin Sibongile Matiwane travelled from the Eastern Cape to offer his support, says: “I am still in disbelief that he is accused of such a crime when he is a quiet person who doesn’t know anything about explosives.”

Mafe’s cousin Sibongile Matiwane travelled from the Eastern Cape to offer his support.

Outside court, homeless people and supporters from various organisations also came to support Mafe.

Rameez Jansen said: “I would see him at the soup kitchen and he always kept to himself and never bothered anyone.

“It is difficult to access parliament and what he is being accused of doesn’t make sense at all.”

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