Man accused of terrorism over fire at South African Parliament says he ‘burned it intentionally’

A man facing terrorism charges over a fire that badly damaged South Africa’s Parliament building last year said in a courtroom outburst on Thursday that he “burned it intentionally.”

Shouting and pointing his finger, Zandile Mafe said he was going to “burn it more” if the Parliament was not moved from Cape Town to either the city of Bloemfontein or Pretoria.

The huge blaze badly damaged the historic Parliament complex in January last year as it ripped through various buildings, including the main chamber where lawmakers sit. It hasn’t been fully repaired, with estimates saying it will cost around $120 million and take at least three years.

Mafe was arrested in the Parliament precinct soon after the fire started. He was charged with breaking and entering, arson and terrorism, but his case has been held up after a judge ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

Zandile Mafe, the alleged parliament arsonist, appears in court. Image: Esa Alexander

The judge overseeing Thursday’s court appearance allowed Mafe to finish his rant, saying he didn’t want to “exacerbate” his “mental condition,” according to South African media reports.

Judge Nathan Erasmus then said an expert report indicated that Mafe was not able to understand the wrongfulness of the acts he is accused of, although a final decision on whether there will be a criminal trial was postponed until next month.

Mafe had also challenged the court to give him a sentence of 25 years to life, which is what he could face if his trial goes ahead.

“I’m not afraid of a life sentence,” he shouted.

The fire at the seat of South Africa’s democracy raised criticism of the security procedures in place at the Parliament whose members were on a break and the buildings were largely empty. No one was hurt.

Mafe has said he is angry at various issues in South Africa. He has called the opposition political party that runs the Cape Town municipality racist against Black people and has also accused the government of failing to help the poor.

Source: AP