Cape Town – The man accused of setting the National Assembly ablaze on January 2 is due back in the Cape Town Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning.
Zandile Christmas Mafe, 49, is accused of starting a fire that gutted the National Assembly chamber as well as sections of the Old Assembly.
He faces fives charges relating to possession of an explosive device, theft, housebreaking, and two counts of arson amongst his charges.
According to a News24 report, demonstrations are expected to take place outside the precinct of the court ,in solidarity with Mafe.
His lawyer, Luvuyo Godla – who is working pro bono on the case remains adamant that his client is being used as a scapegoat.
“Mr Mafe, if you look at him, if he would have any courage to go and commit a crime of housebreaking, he would simply go to a place where he would get financial gain, not this nature of a case. Hence we say that he is just a scapegoat, there is someone behind that,” South African quoted Godla as saying.
Mafe, who was initially reported as homeless, “has a fixed address and he has been staying there. He stayed in Langa for a period of four years, renting at number 11 Washington Street. He is renting where he is now in Khayelitsha. He has got a family. He has got a mother as a surviving parent and he has got siblings. As most of us, he is not from Western Cape, he is originally from Mahikeng. He is in Western Cape looking for greener pastures. He is unemployed. He has been in the Western Cape for more than six years,” Godla said, according to Sowetan Live.
The blaze tore through the wood-panelled assembly where parliamentary debates are held and the president makes his annual state-of-the-nation address.
The fire started in the older part of the complex – a section that once housed South Africa’s first parliament.
Completed in 1884, the section is where parliament keeps treasures, including around 4 000 heritage and artworks, some dating back to the 17th century.
The fire then spread to the newer National Assembly and a third building housing the upper house, the National Council of Provinces.
Surveillance cameras showed the suspect in the buildings at around 2:00 am, AFP reported.
Picture: Getty Images
Compiled by Odwa Shumi
Additional reporting by AFP