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11 Jan, 2022 15:22

Alleged parliament arsonist charged with terrorism

The fire spread through the parliament complex in South Africa’s Cape Town, causing the building's roof to collapse
Alleged parliament arsonist charged with terrorism

A South African man accused of starting a devastating fire that tore through the national parliament in Cape Town is facing an additional charge of terrorism over the January 2 blaze.

Zandile Christmas Mafe was initially charged with breaking into the parliament building, arson, and attempting to steal property.

During his second court appearance over the incident, Mafe was accused on Tuesday of “the offense of contravening the provisions of … the protection of constitutional democracy against terrorist and related activities.”

Speaking to reporters, prosecution spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila stated that the latest charge was added because authorities believe he “detonated a device inside parliament.”

Protesters outside the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court held signs declaring ‘Free Mafe’ and ‘He is not guilty’, arguing that the government is using him as a scapegoat.

Mafe’s defense lawyer Dali Mpofu said his client was “taken for mental observation” after his arrest and has since been formally diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia.”

The blaze has sparked concerns about the building’s fire safety system, as the sprinkler system failed to activate. A report by the City of Cape Town later found the parliament’s fire detection system seemed to be “faulty,” stating it was last serviced in 2017.