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Thuli Madonsela weighs in on Zandile Christmas Mafe's arrest

“I’m curious what those who are 100% sure he is innocent know that we do not know,” said the former public protector.

06 January 2022 - 12:30
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela weighs in on Zandile Christmas Mafe getting a private lawyer. File photo.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela weighs in on Zandile Christmas Mafe getting a private lawyer. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has weighed in on alleged parliament arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe getting a private lawyer, saying this removed him from state legal aid where there was a risk of a confession. 

Mafe was arrested on Sunday in connection with the fire that ravaged parliament.

He appeared in the Cape Town magistrate’s court on Tuesday, where he was represented by attorney Luvuyo Godla on a pro bono basis. 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 Points Act.

Madonsela questioned Mafe's ability to arrange a private lawyer so quickly.

“I’ve been wondering how it was possible to quickly arrange a private lawyer for the homeless Zandile Mafe, thus removing him from state legal aid where there was risk of a confession,” she said.

“I’m curious what those who are 100% sure he is innocent know that we do not know.”

Madonsela suggested the fire at parliament seemed strategic and needed urgent attention. 

“These fires — too many of them in strategic places — an uncomfortable coincidence that needs urgent attention,” she said. 

Earlier this week, Godla dismissed reports that his client was homeless, saying Mafe resided in Khayelitsha, Site B. 

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

Godla said Mafe was a “poor man” and that he was not receiving a “cent” for representing him. 

“What compelled me to defend this chap is because he raised his hand,” said Godla. “He does not have assets but that doesn’t make him a flight risk.”

He said Mafe was 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,” said Godla.


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