Suspect in South Africa’s Parliament Fire Is Sent for Psychiatric Check


JOHANNESBURG — The man suspected of setting hearth to South Africa’s Parliament buildings in Cape Town was dedicated to a psychiatric hospital on Tuesday to find out whether or not he’s match to face trial on terrorism and different prices.

In a courtroom listening to, prosecutors offered written testimony from the government-appointed Cape Town district surgeon who believes that the suspect, Zandile Christmas Mafe, has paranoid schizophrenia. It was the most recent twist in a thriller surrounding the fireplace that ripped by the parliamentary complicated on Jan. 2.

Mr. Mafe, 49, appeared in courtroom clean-shaven and dressed in a black go well with, a marked distinction from his bedraggled look throughout an preliminary courtroom listening to final week. But prosecutors mentioned that he may not be “compos mentis,” or totally sane.

“The court observed this morning, when he entered the courtroom, he turned around, he appeared to be confused,” mentioned the prosecutor, Helene Booysen.

If Mr. Mafe is discovered mentally match to face trial, he’ll face prices that embrace terrorism, unlawful possession of explosives, arson, theft and burglary. His authorized workforce has beforehand indicated that he intends to plead not responsible.

The police mentioned they noticed and arrested Mr. Mafe on the Parliament complicated shortly after the fireplace was reported on Jan. 2. Prosecutors mentioned he was caught with an explosive gadget, stolen laptops, paperwork and crockery. He is the one suspect in the destruction of the historic buildings that housed the National Assembly and the workplaces of lawmakers, the governing African National Congress and a number of other opposition events.

On Tuesday, because the choose, Zamekile Mbalo, ordered Mr. Mafe dedicated to a psychiatric hospital in Cape Town for 30 days, the suspect appeared visibly distressed. He shook his head backward and forward, respiratory closely as he clutched his belongings in a procuring bag. His legal professionals mentioned he would go on starvation strike to protest his continued detention.

“He is not prepared to trade his liberty for food,” mentioned Dali Mpofu, Mr. Mafe’s lawyer. His shopper wouldn’t settle for meals from a authorities that had uncared for him in poverty, he mentioned.

Friends have described Mr. Mafe as having been homeless and hungry after dropping his job at a bread manufacturing unit final 12 months.

Speculation concerning the causes of the fireplace has been rife in South Africa, a rustic that’s nonetheless on edge after riots final July that resulted in greater than 300 deaths. Some critics of the federal government have argued that Mr. Mafe is a scapegoat for poor security requirements in the complicated. A authorities minister has mentioned he doesn’t consider preliminary reporting describing the suspect as a vagrant.

Mr. Mafe’s lawyer, Mr. Mpofu, a former anti-apartheid activist and now a distinguished member of an opposition social gathering, has a repute for taking up politicized circumstances, together with defending a bunch of veterans accused of briefly holding the protection minister hostage throughout a gathering over unpaid advantages. Mr. Mpofu can also be an lawyer for Jacob Zuma, the previous president, showing on his behalf to attraction his arrest on contempt of courtroom prices final 12 months.

A preliminary report from Cape Town’s hearth and rescue service confirmed that the buildings’ sprinkler system didn’t activate through the blaze. It can also be unclear whether or not the fireplace alarm and detection system was activated, with officers saying the injury was too in depth for them to inform.

Mr. Mafe’s courtroom look came about days after one other man was arrested in Johannesburg and accused of smashing the home windows of South Africa’s constitutional courtroom. The man gave no motive and has refused bail, however the timing of the episode simply after the fireplace, and coinciding with the publication of a wide-reaching report on corruption, has solely raised public suspicions concerning the incidents.