Parliament ‘arsonist’ Zandile Mafe refuses to leave his cell for court date for the third time

27 January 2023 - 14:48
By Philani Nombembe
Alleged arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe refused to attend court.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times Alleged arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe refused to attend court.

The man accused of setting fire to parliament was due to appear in the high court in Cape Town on Friday — but refused to leave his prison cell.

Zandile Christmas Mafe faces housebreaking with intent to commit terrorism and arson, terrorism, arson and theft charges. He has been in custody since January 2 last year, after a fire gutted the National Assembly building in Cape Town.

“He did not furnish any reasons or make any demands but just refused to come out of his prison cell,” said Eric Ntabazalila, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson.

The court heard that several prison officials, including the head of Pollsmoor prison, tried to persuade Mafe to leave his cell, to no avail.

“It is the third time he has pulled this stunt. At the first pre-trial conference, Mafe refused to come out of the holding cells of the high court, telling court orderlies he was on hunger strike, and was dragged out of his bed at Pollsmoor prison in pyjamas,” said Ntabazalila.

“At the second pre-trial conference, he refused to leave his prison cell demanding that he be allowed to have a television set, a radio and a kettle, as he wanted to listen to and watch the news. He also wanted to make himself coffee and boil water for bathing as prison water was not warm.”

Mafe's lawyer Luvuyo Godla told the court that he last consulted with his client on Tuesday. He was also surprised that he did not show at court.

Godla said he intended to ask the court to refer Mafe for mental observation. He said he had informed Mafe about the request and that he understood and indicated he would co-operate.

Judge Mokgoatji Dolamo said he was uncomfortable ordering Mafe to be sent for mental observation in his absence.

Dolamo suggested that the next pre-trial hearing be held at the Pollsmoor prison court to ensure his attendance.

Godla did not object but indicated that there was no guarantee Mafe would attend court even if it came to his doorstep.

The prosecution and Godla agreed to a short postponement for the defence to persuade Mafe to attend so the court could make the order for him to be sent for mental observation.

The next pre-trial conference is set for February 10.