ANC T-shirt and Janusz Waluś placards found in parliament arson suspect’s shack, says neighbour

05 January 2022 - 13:50
By Philani Nombembe
Zandile Christmas Mafe, the man accused of burning parliament, in the dock at the Cape Town magistrate's court on January 4 2022.
Image: SUMAYA HISHAM Zandile Christmas Mafe, the man accused of burning parliament, in the dock at the Cape Town magistrate's court on January 4 2022.

An ANC T-shirt, political reports from 1980s newspapers and placards demanding the release of Chris Hani’s killer, Janusz Waluś, were found in the suspected parliament arsonist’s shack this week.

This is according to a street committee member in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, who was present on Monday when detectives combed Zandile Christmas Mafe’s Site B shack for clues.  

Mafe, 49, appeared in the Cape Town magistrate’s court on Tuesday to answer to charges including arson and theft.

When his face was seen on television screens during his court appearance, his neighbours were dumbfounded.

Patrick Mkwela, a member of the street committee who has lived in the community for about 30 years, said: “We ask people to bring us letters from the street committees where they come from so we can determine what kind of a person he or she is. But he [Mafe] was yet to give us that letter. He has lived here since August.”

Mafe’s shack, which stands on a fenced property with two others, was locked and looked deserted on Tuesday.

“The owner of the property left about five years ago and left a neighbour in charge. He has rented it out to tenants since then. He doesn’t consult us. This man [Mafe] has been here for about four months.”

Mkwela said he found it odd that Mafe goes by a woman’s name. He described Mafe as very quiet and “not isiXhosa-speaking. It is the first time I heard of a man named Zandile. That’s a woman’s name. I saw his identity document when the detectives came here on Monday. It is written Zandisile. He used to live in Bellville.”

He said the detectives found old newspapers in Mafe’s shack.

“I asked the detectives what they were looking for and they said they wanted to find evidence linking him to the arson,” he said.

“They wanted to check which political party he belonged to. I asked how they were going to open the shack and they said he gave them the keys.

“They found an ANC T-shirt and placards demanding Waluś’s release by January 22. He also has politics stories dating back to the 1980s. He keeps them in a bag. That’s where his identity document was.”

Mafe’s next-door neighbour, Maggie Base, said she was shocked by his arrest.

“I have never had a conversation with him,” she said.

“I would greet him and pass. I am told he speaks Setswana and Afrikaans. I don’t even know his name.

“He is weird. He would sweep the yard and the street. I reported him to his landlord. I was concerned he doesn’t act sane. The landlord told me he is very educated. I left it at that.

“One of the things that got me hot under the collar is that he locked his gate and used an opening in the fence as a gate.”

Base said Mafe had been missing from the community for a while. 

“We were shocked to see him in the news,” she said.

“Then we saw police entering his shack and searching it. We were very surprised when we were told he is suspected of burning parliament.” 

Mafe will be back in court next Tuesday, when he is expected to bring a formal bail application.

“He is charged with housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, two counts of arson, possession of an explosive device and destruction of an essential infrastructure,” said Eric Ntabazalila, spokesperson for the prosecution.   

“More charges are likely to be added as the investigation continues. The state requested the court to postpone the case for seven days for bail information, including confirmation of  his residential address, whether he has any assets, any pending cases, any pending warrants of arrests against him and any previous convictions.

“The state also requested the postponement to determine the schedule under which the accused will be charged.”

Ntabazalila said the postponement will also provide the investigating officer “with an opportunity to visit the crime scene to determine the extent of the damage. The crime scene was active until late yesterday, which made it inaccessible.”