SA Parliament fire: Accused denies and rejects charges

Zandile Mafe appears in the magistrates court in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022 charged with two counts of arson, theft, housebreaking and contravention of the National Key Points Acts. The State has been granted a seven-day postponement in the case against Mafe after he was arrested in connection with the fire that's destroyed parts of Parliament. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

Cape Town – The case against the 49-year-old man accused in connection with the fire at Parliament has been postponed to January 11.

Zandile Mafe appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday morning. He is represented by Luvuyo Godla.

Mafe has denied and rejected the charges. Godla said his client was pleading not guilty.

Magistrate Zamekile Mbalo postponed the hearing to allow for further investigations.

Spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority in the Western Cape, Eric Ntabazalila, said State investigators needed to confirm certain information, such as the suspect’s residential address and whether he has assets.

“Investigators have not been able to go to Parliament to assess the damages. By next Tuesday we will have that information,” Ntabazalila said. He mentioned that the accused would apply for bail, but Ntabazalila said the State would oppose bail.

The suspect, who was apprehended by the Hawks, is expected to be charged with housebreaking, theft and arson.

Since Sunday, flames have been ravaging the parliamentary precinct, destroying the National Assembly and parts of the Old Assembly building.

On Monday afternoon strong south-easterly winds in the city fuelled the fire again. It was brought under control around midnight.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the latest re-emergence of the fire necessitated the deployment of heavy-duty aerial firefighting appliances to reinforce the existing capacity.

“The firefighters applied a courageous and brave fighting spirit in their fight for hours last night, and were able to put down the fire by midnight.

“Consequently, there has been withdrawal of the reinforcement, with only six of the 10 fire trucks now remaining on the scene. It is hoped that further trucks will be withdrawn during the course of the morning. The firefighters remain on site for inspections of the various parts of the building,” he said.

Mothapo said further damage has been caused, with the offices of MPs being completely gutted.

“With the fire now contained, it is anticipated that the work by the multidisciplinary team of engineers, which arrived at Parliament yesterday to conduct assessment and establish the scale of the damage, amongst others, will proceed.

“The presiding officers of Parliament have commended the team of firefighters for the incredible work they put in for days, even under risky situations, to contain the fire,” Mothapo added.

Political Bureau

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