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South Africa parliament fire suspect charged with ‘terrorism’

Defence lawyer Dali Mpofu is seeking bail for Zandile Christmas Mafe who was arrested last week and charged with arson.

A South African court has charged a man suspected of starting a devastating fire that gutted South Africa’s parliament with “terrorism”, adding to robbery and arson accusations, as he made his second appearance in court on Tuesday.

Zandile Christmas Mafe, 49, was arrested near the parliament complex after the fire broke out on January 2 and appeared in court three days later.

He was initially charged with breaking into parliament, arson and intention to steal property, including laptops, crockery and documents, before the new terrorism charge was added on Tuesday.

new charge said the “accused is guilty of the offence of contravening the provisions of … the protection of constitutional democracy against terrorist and related activities”, according to a court document.

The prosecution spokesman Eric Ntabazalila told reporters during a court recess that “we have added a sixth charge … the accused detonated a device inside parliament”.

The blaze broke out in the Cape Town complex before dawn on January 2, spreading to the National Assembly, the roof of which collapsed.

Protesters outside the court building demanded his release saying he was a scapegoat.

Defence lawyer Dali Mpofu said that Mafe was last week “taken for mental observation on January 3” and diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia”.

Mpofu, one of South Africa’s most famous lawyers, who has defended some high-profile figures, including former president Jacob Zuma, is seeking bail for Mafe.

In stark contrast to his first court appearance where he was bearded and dressed in a grey shirt with knee-length denim shorts, on Tuesday he came in clean-shaven in a light blue shirt and a dark jacket.

Since his arrest, debate has raged in South Africa over whether Mafe, described in the local media as homeless, was responsible for setting the building on fire.

News Credit : Aljazeera

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