'We might be poor, but we aren’t stupid; we can see what is at play here'
THE man accused of starting last week’s major fire in Parliament, causing damage that will cost an estimated R1 billion to repair, is a soccer fanatic who couldn’t harm a fly, says his family.
Thousands of South Africans pledged their support for Zandile Christmas Mafe when he appeared in the Cape Town magistrate’s court on Tuesday last week, labelled an arsonist.
In an interview with Sunday Independent, Mafe’s lawyer, Vuyani Godla, says his client is a scapegoat.
“My client was charged with arson, house breaking and theft, yet the State hasn’t yet produced a single piece of evidence, even a video, implicating him in any of these crimes. There is no merit in this case; they are just using him as a scapegoat.”
Godla said Mafe doesn’t have the skills and knowledge to commit such crimes.
“He doesn’t have the necessary information, knowledge and expertise to break into Parliament – a well-guarded building with sophisticated operating systems – and wander around as indicated. If my client had those skills, he would have broken into so many houses to steal, since he is unemployed. And how would he break into Parliament to steal documents?” Godla asked.
He confirmed that members of the Hawks went to Mafe’s family home in Mafikeng, North West, to confirm his residential address.
“I can confirm that the family told members of the Hawks that Zandile has never been outside the borders of South Africa and doesn’t even have a passport. He has never been a member of uMkhonto we Sizwe, as some of the media houses are alleging.
“Someone with resources and an agenda is using this poor man to protect themselves and their interests.”
Godla’s sentiments were echoed by Mafe’s niece, Octavia, who also believes there is sinister motive behind her uncle’s arrest.
She said her uncle moved to the Western Cape in 1996, to take up a job at a bakery in Langa, outside Cape Town, where he worked for six years.
“After my parents divorced, he took care of us... he lost his job at the bakery and things have not been good for him since.”
She said she last saw him in 2004.
“I always remember him as a jovial person who can’t harm a fly. He is [an avid] newspaper reader and a soccer fanatic. Benni McCarthy was his favourite soccer player; at some stage, he even cut his hair like him.”
She said the family was devastated about his arrest and that they will do everything in their power to fight for justice for him.
“We might be poor, but we aren’t stupid; we can see what is at play here.”
Sunday Independent understands that some residents of Khayelitsha, where Mafe has been staying for the past few years, are planning a picket outside the court at his next appearance, to show their solidarity.
We can also confirm that some of the residents visited him at Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison on Thursday, where he is incarcerated.
Phumzile Jack, one of the organisers of the picket in support of Mafe, told Sunday Independent yesterday that he has known him for years and believes that he is a victim of government paranoia.
“Mafe is a victim of government paranoia. Parliament was on fire, so the first person they find next to the National Assembly becomes the arsonist without any evidence.
“First, they said Mafe was homeless, yet he took police to his shack in Khayelitsha, where he showed them where he stayed. The man is unemployed, but not homeless. They even ransacked his place and couldn’t find anything linking him to the burning of Parliament.”
Jack also disputes the police claim that Mafe made a confession before a magistrate.
“We will stand by him and support him all the way; he is innocent until proven guilty,” he said.