'Parliament arsonist' Zandile Mafe could be sent to Eastern Cape for mental observation

Report compiled by health DG Dr Sandile Buthelezi handed to court

Alleged parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe's lawyer Luvuyo Godla says his client could be sent to the Eastern Cape for psychiatric evaluation because he claims he was ill-treated at a Western Cape facility.
Alleged parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe's lawyer Luvuyo Godla says his client could be sent to the Eastern Cape for psychiatric evaluation because he claims he was ill-treated at a Western Cape facility.
Image: Philani Nombembe

The man accused of setting fire to parliament could be admitted to a psychiatric hospital in the Eastern Cape for observation as he claims to have been abused in a Western Cape facility.

Zandile Mafe appeared in the Cape Town high court on Friday to determine logistics before his trial. His referral to a psychiatric hospital for observation was a sticking point. Mafe’s defence team and the prosecution agree he should be sent to for observation. But Mafe does not want to go back to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital in Cape Town. He claims he was mistreated at the facility.

The charges against Mafe include housebreaking with intent to commit terrorism, arson, terrorism and theft. He has been in custody since January 2 2022 after a fire he allegedly started destroyed a large part of the National Assembly building. 

A report compiled by health department director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi on the possibility of Mafe being admitted to a facility in another province was handed in to court on Friday.

In the report, Buthelezi said the “Mental Care Act does not preclude the rendering of mental health services across provincial borders”. But he emphasised the “service” is offered “under tight budgetary constraints”.

Buthelezi said forensic mental observations in the Western Cape are done at Valkenberg as it “had the necessary infrastructure and resources to render such a service”.

“I have no objection should the court order that Mafe undergoes forensic mental observation outside the Western Cape.

“I have requested the head of health in the Eastern Cape to accommodate Mafe for the mental observation at Fort England Psychiatric Hospital, should the court see it fit and order as such.

“I have noted with concern the allegation that Mr Mafe may have been ill-treated at Valkenberg.”

Buthelezi said he had requested the head of health in the province to investigate the matter and provide him and the prosecution with the outcomes of the probe.

“We have long waiting lists for forensic mental observations throughout the country. This is partly due to an increase in demand for this service, while it requires to be conducted by highly skilled professionals we do not have sufficient numbers of,” the report reads.

“However, we are conducting this service to the best of our ability as it is one of the critical procedures not only for criminal justice, but also in human rights.

“I welcome the consideration of the court that Mafe should not get preferential treatment by being put at the front of the waiting list. Fair in rendering services in the public sector is what we all should strive for.

“I also recognise the sensitive nature of this matter and have impressed to the head of health in the Eastern Cape that the province regards Mafe as a priority in their list should the court order that he be sent to Fort England for mental observation.”

The matter was postponed to March 13.

After the hearing, Mafe’s lawyer Luvuyo Godla said his client has “some complaints about how he was treated” at Valkenberg.

“Yesterday afternoon [Thursday] we received correspondence advising us there could be a different facility, but obviously it will go with some inconveniences because there ought to be logistics arranged as it is outside the jurisdiction of the Western Cape.

“Because we did not have sufficient time to persuade each other, engage each other and try to sort out those logistics we decided this matter [should] be remanded. It is always better that we sit together outside court so we come to court knowing the logistics and arrangements to be made.”

Godla said he has no objections to Mafe being assessed outside the Western Cape.

“He has his own story which we believe will be ventilated when the investigation takes place. We have been advised by the state that they are going to investigate some of the allegations raised by our client. We are mindful that government does not have unlimited resources.

“We should as well be reasonable, but we don’t want to disregard the rights of our client. Everything will transpire later. We would be happy that the matter be dealt with speedily and do the assessment here in the Western Cape. But in light of what [he] is complaining about, we are amenable to look at alternatives.”


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