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‘Why would a vagrant burn down parliament?’: Politicians weigh in on alleged arsonist

05 January 2022 - 07:02
Zandile Christmas Mafe, the alleged parliament arsonist, appeared in the Cape Town magistrate's court.
Zandile Christmas Mafe, the alleged parliament arsonist, appeared in the Cape Town magistrate's court.
Image: Esa Alexander

Several politicians and public figures have weighed in on the arrest of alleged arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe in connection with the fire that broke out in parliament over the weekend.

Mafe appeared in the Cape Town magistrate’s court on Tuesday, where his case was postponed to January 11 for further investigation.

He faces charges of housebreaking, theft and arson and further charges under the National Key Point Act.

Attorney Luvuyo Godla, who is representing Mafe, alleged his client is a “scapegoat” for failures of the executive and legislature.

“How would that person get access to parliament, and how would he know where to go in parliament and burn [the building]. He’s clearly a scapegoat. This is a failure of the executive and legislature, not that poor person,” Godla told media outside the court.

He argued that Mafe was unemployed but not a flight risk. Nor is he homeless.

“He is a person with a fixed address. He has been in the Western Cape for more than six years,” said Godla.

Weighing in on the matter, DA leader John Steenhuisen said no scapegoating would be allowed.

“We notice an arrest has been made and we welcome it, but we must not allow scapegoating to take place. Police will probably remember what happened during the break-in at the chief justice office, where there was suddenly a flurry of high-profile arrests. Those cases frittered away and the suspects have never been heard from again,” Steenhuisen said.

He said the DA would get to the bottom of why the parliament fire was started, how it spread, what systems were working and what systems were not.

Taking to social media, transport minister Fikile Mbalula questioned why a “vagrant” would “wake up and burn down parliament”.

He said the idea of a “homeless vagrant” vandalising the National Assembly building was not far-fetched, but he wanted to know the logic behind it.

“I remember not so long ago they burnt more than 18 train sets at Cape Town station. Guess who was arrested? Kids. The syndicate used kids for their nefarious deeds. We offered the public a big prize. They brought kids who confessed to the act,” said Mbalula.

“In Braamfontein, Johannesburg they burnt train sets, again similar to what we are seeing today. It was a vagrants/homeless people. The motive for burning trains was clear: to paralyse Prasa [Passenger Rail Agency of SA]. We need to understand the motive for burning parliament to project the country into chaos.”

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Jacob Zuma’s daughter Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla also weighed in on the arrest.

Here is what they and others had to say:


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