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Parliament arson suspect Zandile Mafe in fresh bid for bail after five months

Anthony Molyneaux Lead video journalist
Alleged parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe in the dock during a previous appearance. File photo.
Alleged parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe in the dock during a previous appearance. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

Alleged parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe's defence lawyer Dali Mpofu on Monday argued he should be released from custody after spending five months behind bars without being proven guilty of a crime.

Mpofu spoke for two-and-a-half hours in the high court in Cape Town in another attempt to secure bail for Mafe.

The former homeless man is allegedly behind the devastating fire that ripped through the National Assembly on January 2.

Mafe, who was absent from court on Monday, testified previously in support of his bail application, but it was turned down and he remains in custody.

“This is our constitution. Here [is] a person who has the right to be released and the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty,” said Mpofu.

He argued that Mafe is not a threat to society and will not commit any offences if he is granted bail.

“Mafe has been in custody for five months because the system is not functioning in his favour.

“We are dealing with a human being who is presumed to be innocent. The day we don’t take into account that a human being has been sitting for five months in jail and a large part of that is due to the inefficiencies of the police, the prosecutor and magistrate ...  If we could subtract those things, he would be free.”

Shortly after his arrest, Mafe was referred to a psychiatric hospital by the Cape Town magistrate's court for 30 days of observation, based on a report compiled by a district surgeon after he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Mafe is not just someone who wants to sit and watch DStv
Dali Mpofu for Zandile Mafe

Mpofu argued that Mafe was denied the opportunity to get a second opinion on the diagnosis, securing an order from judge president John Hlophe declaring the referral to be unlawful. Hlophe ordered that he be placed in a normal correctional facility and taken out of Valkenberg.

“They took Mafe to Valkenberg wrongly, the misdiagnosis, the hiding of information, the so-called confession which is still a mystery, the denial of rights — these are the factors that should allow Mafe to receive bail,” said Mpofu.

“He is aggrieved by being in prison because it deprives him from making a living.”

Questioned by the court on Mafe’s comment during his testimony in the magistrate's court in February that he just wanted to go home and watch DStv, Mpofu said Mafe was misunderstood.

“The gist of this is that Mafe is not just someone who wants to sit and watch DStv. He is actually saying, ‘I can’t do what I used to do, like begging for money and carrying groceries, due to this case.’ But he might wash cars in his area, for example.”


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