South Africa’s historic Parliament complex was destroyed in a fire set by a man accused of setting it. The man has now been charged with terrorism.
The state broadcaster SABC reported that Zandile Mafe, 49, appeared in court Tuesday in Cape Town for a bail hearing at which the new charge was added. As of last week, Mafe was already facing charges for housebreaking with intent to steal, theft, When he was first brought into court last week, two counts of arson and possession of an explosive device were made against him.
It took firefighters four days to completely extinguish the major fire that ravaged Cape Town’s Parliament complex on Jan. 2. The fire destroyed the South African Parliament building’s main chamber where South Africa’s Parliament sits, damaging other parts of the 130-year-old complex and other buildings, where the country’s legislature has been housed since British colonialism in the late 1800s.
Firefighters spent over 70 hours fighting the fire. Some of them stood on cranes. At the time of the incident, Parliament was closed for the end-of-year holidays.
South Africa’s seat of democracy faced immediate concerns that it had been targeted intentionally based on the size of the fire and damages.
On the day the fire began, Mafe was arrested at the scene with an explosive device and described as homeless in his first court appearance. It was reported that more arrests could be forthcoming as a result of the investigation being taken over by a unit of the South African police dealing with high-profile crimes.
Since Mafe was first implicated in the case, things have taken an odd turn: online rumors have speculated that Mafe received military training in Russia. According to his family, this is not true.
It has been alleged that Mafe was being used as a scapegoat to cover up security failures in Parliament. His lawyer has denied the accusations against him.
Fire sprinklers weren’t working at Parliament for reasons still unknown. Patricia de Lille, the government’s minister, said that a water valve had been shut off at the time of the fire. The report points out that parts of the fire sprinkler system had not been serviced as frequently as they should have been, pointing to some shortcomings in Parliament’s fire safety plan. In addition, the report indicated the water valve for the system should have been locked in the open position.
Earlier on Tuesday, attorney Dali Mpofu announced he was joining the defense team of Mafe, who is a leading member of one of South Africa’s opposition political parties.Besides defending Jacob Zuma in his corruption trial, Mpofu also represents other former politicians.