Parliament fire: Declaration of Mafe’s fitness to stand trial postponed to December

Alleged Parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe gestures during an inquiry into his fitness to stand trial at Western Cape Town High Court.

Alleged Parliament arsonist Zandile Mafe gestures during an inquiry into his fitness to stand trial at Western Cape Town High Court.

Brenton Geach/Gallo Images

  • The declaration on Zandile Mafe’s fitness to stand trial over the Parliament fire was postponed to December.
  • A two-day inquiry was held in the Western Cape High Court.
  • Two psychiatric reports recommended treatment and rehabilitation at Valkenberg Hospital instead of a trial. 

The outcome of an inquiry into whether Zandile Mafe is mentally well enough to stand trial on charges of torching Parliament will be announced on 11 December by the Western Cape High Court. 

The court was about to make its finding on Friday as the two-day inquiry wound up at around 18:00.

Mafe was arrested on 2 January 2022 and his charges include arson and terrorism. 

In outbursts, he made untested claims that he started the fire, but will plead not guilty.

He was sent for a psychiatric assessment to determine his fitness to stand trial after numerous observations on his behaviour.

He rejected the unanimous findings of court-appointed mental health experts, and an independent psychiatrist, hence the inquiry. 

The experts diagnosed schizophrenia, and recommended psychiatric treatment at Valkenberg Hospital, and rehabilitation. 

READ | Zandile Mafe unfit to stand trial for National Assembly fire

Over the two days, the court heard, at length, that his symptoms included delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, tangentiality (going off-topic at length without going back to the point), and disturbed thought processes. 

The inquiry was held to find out if he can follow court processes and if he appreciates the wrongfulness of what he is accused of. 

His lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu SC, argued he is fit to stand trial, and that the court-appointed panel’s report was “cryptic” and defective. 

He said the court should not confuse his controversial political statements about wanting the government removed, with his capacity to understand a court case.

The prosecutor, advocate Mervyn Menigo, argued that Mafe is not fit to stand trial, and his behaviour during the trial mirrored the symptoms the head of the panel testified about on Thursday, and the whole court had seen it.

The declaration of whether he could go on trial or not was expected on Friday, but the Setswana interpreter was unable to stay beyond 17:00 to translate Judge Nathan Erasmus’s findings after he heard the final argument, hence the postponement.

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