We’re learning more about the man accused of burning down Parliament each passing day. The problem with that, however, is that it’s making a strange set of circumstances look even stranger – and Zandile Mafe’s behaviour in the weeks beforehand has now come under scrutiny.

Who is Zandile Mafe? It’s a good question…

Where do we even start? Initially, he was paraded to the courts as a homeless citizen, before his hastily arranged private lawyer revealed that he actually had a fixed address at Site B in Khayelitsha. This is just one of the many confusing contradictions linked to this story.

Zandile Mafe was arrested on Sunday, and remains behind bars until at least Tuesday 11 January, when his bail application will be heard. However, the suspect doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a mastermind who could destroy one of Mzansi’s national key points.

Zandile Mafe neighbours recall ‘odd behaviour, loner tendancies’

While state prosecutors continue to look for the missing puzzle pieces, more details about the alleged arsonist have come to light. Ludidi Velani, who took a camera to Zandile Mafe’s house, was informed of the following by dumbfounded neighbours:

  • Mafe moved into this shack last August – but he’s not been seen here ‘for about a month’.
  • He has been described as a ‘loner’, who would ‘avoid communication’.
  • Zandile Mafe became more withdrawn before he disappeared from the neighbourhood, according to one resident.
  • His decision to enter the property via a hole in the fence, instead of his gate, also perplexed others in close quarters.

Parliament arson suspect described as ‘weird’ by neighbours – but family standing by their own

Maggie Base, a next-door neighbour of Mafe’s during his brief tenancy in Khayelitsha, didn’t sugarcoat her words when talking to TimesLive. She described the 49-year-old as ‘weird’ and admitted that she felt he was ‘not a sane person’ – just a few weeks after meeting him.

“He is weird. He would sweep the yard and the street. I reported him to his landlord. I was concerned he doesn’t act sane. The landlord told me he is very educated. I left it at that. Another thing that got me hot under the collar is that he locked his gate and used an opening in the fence as a gate.”

Maggie Base

However, the family of Zandile Mafe believe that both his neighbours and the courts are completely mistaken. Speaking to the media, Alfred Matiwane – the brother of the suspect – denied that his sibling is capable of any violent act, let alone the burning down of Parliament.

“From childhood when I grew with Zandile, Zandile is not a violent person. He never even harmed any person at school. I am so surprised when I hear that today Zandile is the one who burned the National Assembly.”

Alfred Matiwane



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