Man accused of burning down S. African parliament found unfit to stand trialMon, 11 Dec 2023 14:32:36 GMT

A court on Monday ruled that a man accused of burning down the South African parliament in 2022 is unfit to stand trial due to schizophrenia.Zandile Mafe, 50, was arrested while firefighters were still battling the devastating blaze on January 2 last year.He had pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism, theft and arson at earlier hearings also marked by a noisy rant.Zandile Mafe “is unable to stand his trial because of mental illness” Judge Nathan Erasmus told the court on Monday.Firefighters took more than two days to extinguish the fire, which tore through the wood-panelled national assembly chamber.Initial reports showed that sprinklers failed. Repairs are projected to cost two billion rand ($105 million) and take at least three years to complete.Mafe has been diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia”, his defense lawyer, Dali Mpofu, acknowledged to the court this year. He was sent for further psychiatric evaluation after refusing to be admitted to a hospital. Mafe will stay in the hospital wing of a prison until a decision on his future is taken.In July, Mafe went on a rant as he entered the court, saying that he intentionally burned down parliament.He also denounced the main opposition Democratic Alliance party as “racist” and called for white people to leave the country. The latest ruling “is a charade to try Mr Mafe without” his participation, Mpofu said in court, adding “my job is to protect the interest of Mr Mafe”. Mafe sat in the dock wearing a black blazer, shaking his head as the judge delivered the ruling.”It is not in the interest of Mr Mafe for all this exhibitionism to be made about his alleged actions” Mpofu said.The lawyer said he plans to appeal the court’s decision.