The attorney of the 49-year-old man arrested in connection with the Parliament fire has accused government of scapegoating his client, who made his first court appearance on Tuesday.
Zandile Christmas Mafe’s case was postponed for further investigations after a brief appearance in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court.
Speaking outside the court, advocate Luvuyo Godla, who is representing Mafe on a pro-bono basis, said “the executive and legislature” was looking for a scapegoat to take the fall for their own incompetence.
“This is not the person who is supposed to be apprehended… this one is a scapegoat. One will even question what interest would that poor man have in Parliament.
“How would that person get access to Parliament and how would he know where to go in Parliament and burn [the building]. It’s clearly a scapegoat. This is the failure of executive and legislature, not that poor person,” he said.
Godla continued to say: “Surely, where you are you don’t know how to enter Parliament and what are the key points, where to burn, which floor, which door [and so forth].”
He also argued that Mafe, who is unemployed, is not a flight risk and dismissed claims that his client is homeless.
“He is a person with a fixed address [and] a person with family just like ourselves,” he said.
The case against the accused, who is from Khayelitsha, was postponed to 11 January.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the state has been allowed to gather bail information and to inspect the crime scene.
The NPA also confirmed the state intends to oppose Mafe’s bail application.
Five charges have been brought against Mafe.
They include two counts of arson, theft, house breaking with intent to steal, destruction of essential infrastructure, and possession of explosive devices.
Godla indicated that Mafe denies all the charges against him.
“To have someone and place a particular person near a crime scene after apprehending him or her does not necessarily mean this is the person. My client denies and rejects these charges, and therefore he is pleading not guilty,” he said.
The advocate also dismissed the allegations that the suspect was found with explosives when he was was arrested on Sunday afternoon.
“No, not at all… no explosive was ever found in his possession or near him or within a certain proximity. Nothing of that nature.
“If you heard properly, the [state’s] counsel said the crime scene is not accessible for now so they want to investigate and establish other issues first they only assume that there could be some explosives maybe within that area,” he added.
The 49-year-old man was allegedly caught with stolen property after gaining entry to the parliamentary precinct in Cape Town.
He was said to be spotted by members of the Protection and Security Services (PSS) when they noticed the building was on fire.
According to Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille, Mafe was caught on camera as early as 2am on Sunday.
The matter has since been referred to the Hawks for investigations.