A man who allegedly set fire to South Africa’s parliament was caught with explosives, prosecutors say.
Zandile Christmas Mafe is facing five charges – including two counts of arson – following the blaze which began tearing its way through the historic Cape Town building on Sunday.
The 49-year-old has denied all charges, and his lawyer has said he is a victim of mistaken identity.
Mr Mafe is the only person arrested in connection with the fire.
The blaze, which totally destroyed the National Assembly, or lower chamber, but injured no one, has shocked South Africa, and the court was packed ahead of Mr Mafe’s appearance on Tuesday.
The sound of cameras clicking erupted as he entered the room wearing shorts and a creased shirt, and he appeared unkempt and dazed, according to the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko.
A spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority said Mr Mafe was facing five charges:
- “House breaking” with intent to steal and theft of “laptops, crockery and documents”
- Two counts of arson
- Possession of an explosive device
- Destruction of essential infrastructure
Police said Mr Mafe was arrested within the parliamentary complex after the fire started on Sunday.
But his lawyer, Luvuyo Godla, said the wrong person had been detained and Mr Mafe was being made a “scapegoat”.
The case was postponed for seven days to allow police to continue with their investigations. Mr Mafe was remanded in custody until that date.
Meanwhile, firefighters continue to pick their way through the parliamentary building. They are attempting to find any remaining hot spots which could reignite, Cape Town city officials said.
The fire has already reignited once, when strong winds caused smouldering wood in the roof to catch fire again on Monday.
A video of Monday’s blaze has been posted on parliament’s Twitter account:
RE-EMERGENCE OF FIRE IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY BUILDING: Firefighters are on the scene. #ParliamentFire pic.twitter.com/MXmklIS9MG
— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) January 3, 2022
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