Family and friends of Zandile Mafe are shocked and still in disbelief

Johannesburg- The family and neighbours of the man accused of setting alight parliament on Sunday are in shock at his arrest, describing him as a quiet and non-violent man.

Zandile Christmas Mafe, 49, who resides in Khayelitsha in an area called Site B, polarised opinions this week following his high-profile arrest.

Mafe, according to his family, relocated from Mahikeng in the North West to Cape Town in 2000 to seek greener pastures.

Mafe’s aunt, Nomfu Elsie Matiwane, 72, said she raised him, adding that he is not an unscrupulous person.

“Zandile was born and bred here at Lonely Park in Mahikeng. He started his grade 1 at Signal Hill Primary School before he proceeded to Sebopiwa Middle School,” said Matiwane, adding that he finished his grade 11 at Lapologang Secondary School before he left for Cape Town in 2000.

“I personally raised him because his parents passed away while they were still young. His mother had seven children. Unfortunately, only two are left.

“Zandile has a brother, Khalephile Mafe, who is a South African National Defence Force soldier.”

Nokhwezi Matiwane and Zamile Matiwane expressing their shock after the arrest of their brother Zandile Mafe. / Supplied

Matiwane, who described Mafe as a “reserved” man, said relatives were planning a trip to Cape Town to lend their support to Mafe when he makes his second appearance on Tuesday.

“We are planning to go to Cape Town to attend his bail hearing and gather more information on what has really happened.

“The Zandile I know will never commit such a heinous crime. He had no friends when he grew up and would always assist me with house chores.”

Mafe’s cousin, Zamile Matiwane, questioned the legitimacy of the allegations against Mafe, saying his cousin was not politically active.

“Zandile left for Cape Town back in 2000. However, he would come and visit. The last time we saw him was in 2006. We communicated telephonically and he was struggling to find a permanent job in Cape Town, only working as a casual to make ends meet,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mafe’s childhood friend, Errol Mosalagale, said he was a loner growing up, but exhibited no signs of committing the crime he’s accused of.

“I was in disbelief when I saw him on TV being accused of burning the parliament down. I still do not think the police have arrested the right person. There is a huge vacuum between Zandile that I know and what he has been accused of,” said Mosalagale.

SA parliament in Cape Town on fire. / Social Media

Over in Cape Town, Mafe looks to have not yet attained the greener pastures he sought. He lives in a one-room shack that was locked with a chain and a padlock when Sunday World visited this week.

As you enter the yard in front of his shack, there is a vegetable garden where he has planted pumpkin and spinach.

Neighbor Odwa Wam said Mafe never troubled anyone because he always kept to himself, adding that Mafe was fairly new in the area. Wam said Mafe only came out of his shack to clean his yard.

He said before the incident, Mafe’s house had been locked for a week.

However, another neighbour, Wendy Luhabe, said that she believes Mafe is capable of what he is accused of. She said Mafe was untrustworthy, speaking in isiXhosa one day, and pretending not to know the language the next day.

“Whenever he spoke to my husband and I about politics, he would always say how much he hates the ruling party and its president, which leads me to believe he is guilty,” she said.

Western Cape’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said Mafe is charged with housebreaking with an intent to steal, theft, two counts of arson, possession of an explosive device and destruction of an essential infrastructure.

Ntabazalila said more charges are likely to be added as the investigation continues.

“The state requested the court to postpone the case for the next seven days for bail information, such as the confirmation of his residential address, whether he has any assets, any pending cases, pending warrants of arrest and any previous convictions,” said Ntabazalila.

He said the state also requested the postponement to determine the schedule under which the accused will be charged.

The state intends to charge him under schedule five while the defence insists that he must be charged under schedule one.

He added that the state will oppose Mafe’s bail application on Tuesday.

To read more political news and views, click here.

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