South Africa

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Third judge appointed after stalemate in bail application appeal of alleged Parliament arsonist

Alleged arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe appears at Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on 11 January 2022 in connection with the fire at Parliament in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Daily Maverick / Leila Dougan)

The two judges who presided over the bail application appeal of suspected Parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe have failed to reach a decision. To break this stalemate, a third judge has been appointed and the matter will be reheard.

The bail appeal hearing of suspected Parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe was held in the Western Cape High Court before judges James Lekhuleni and Daniel Thulare on Monday. At the end of arguments presented by advocate Dali Mpofu for Mafe and advocate Mervyn Menigo for the State, judgment was reserved.

Mafe is appealing against the decision by Cape Town Regional Court Magistrate Michelle Adams on 4 February to deny him bail.

Western Cape National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila explained that arguments in the matter would be reheard following the split decision.

“A third judge has been appointed and the bail application will be heard on Monday, 30 May 2022,” Ntabazalila said.

Mafe is charged with housebreaking with intent to commit terrorism and arson, arson, terrorism and theft. The charges stem from an incident in the early hours of 2 January where he allegedly set fire to the Parliament complex in Cape Town.

The fire caused widespread damage to the Old and New Assembly buildings. If convicted on the terrorism charge, Mafe faces the prospect of life imprisonment.

He was arrested hours after the fire and within 24 hours of his arrest was examined by Dr Zelda van Tonder, who on 3 January diagnosed him as destructive and a paranoid schizophrenic. 

Following the assessment, Mafe was taken to make a confession. The assessment by Van Tonder was used by the State to refer Mafe for a 30-day observation at Valkenberg Hospital. Mpofu took this referral on appeal to the Western Cape High Court.

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Judge President John Hlophe set aside the referral and said that “the matter is set down for hearing of bail application”.

The next step was Mafe’s bail application on 29 January and for the first time since his arrest, he took the stand. However, on 4 February his bail was denied.

Adams, in her decision, said: “… Mafe did not satisfy the court that exceptional circumstances exist which in the interest of justice permit his release. The application to be released on bail is refused.”

On Wednesday, advocate Luvuyo Godla, assisting Mpofu in the matter, told Daily Maverick: “No new evidence will be led. We will once again lead our arguments based on why Mafe is appealing the decision to deny him bail. The whole purpose of the rehearing of the matter is to familiarise the third judge with all the information relating to the appeal.”

Ntabazalila said: “[Mafe] has not advanced any arguments or raised any material misdirection on the facts and law which may lead this court of appeal to a finding that the decision of the ‘bail court’ was ‘wrong’ in terms of section 65 (4) of the Criminal Procedure Act, 51 of 1997. The appeal should be accordingly dismissed.”

The criminal case against Mafe has been postponed to 9 June while the State waits for the arson report to be completed. 

At his next appearance, Mafe will be served with an indictment setting out the charges against him. The matter will then be referred to the Western Cape High Court for pre-trial conference purposes. DM

 

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  • The Regional Magistrates Court acted in a predictable way on the matter, including the Valkenberg referral. As soon as the High Court got involved, everything went pear shaped. It started with the urgent weekend appeals. At first the High Court ditched the 30 days at Valkenberg. Then, why bother to appoint two judges rather than an uneven number to a case? Mafe made some very strange statements in the High Court which confirm that he may be a more vulnerable member of society. And then, how can a judge even consider letting Mafe out on bail at this stage? Can PdV explain.

  • Somewhere in this whole debacle I think they will discover that Mafe is not that well. I don’t want see an unwell person criminalised even if he did do it.

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