Zandile Mafe

[FILE] Zandile Mafe is accused of terrorism. Photo: Gallo Images/Daily Maverick/Leila Dougan

Zandile Mafe no-show in court after requests for a kettle and TV were denied

Mafe’s lawyer said the accused’s refusal to appear in court on Friday might be a retaliation to his requests being denied yesterday.

Zandile Mafe

[FILE] Zandile Mafe is accused of terrorism. Photo: Gallo Images/Daily Maverick/Leila Dougan

Zandile Mafe – the man accused of burning Parliament – was due in the Cape Town High Court for his second pre-trial conference on Friday, 2 September. However, he failed to appear in the dock again, in fact, he was not even in the building.


Senior State Advocate Mervyn Menigo told the Presiding Officer, Judge Matthew Francis, that the State tried to bring the accused to court but he refused to leave his cell at Pollsmoor Prison.

“The docket has been fully disclosed to the accused and the defence. They indicated that they require time to consult with the accused to get into a position where they can declare themselves trial ready in this matter,” said the prosecutor.

Mafe’s legal representative, Luvuyo Godla, agreed with the State’s request to continue proceedings in his client’s absence. The 49-year-old stands accused of arson, housebreaking with the intent to commit arson, terrorism and theft.

“We agreed that the matter should be remanded until 4 November to give us sufficient time to consult with [Mafe] and also see what we might make admission to instead of running and calling each and every witness,” said Godla.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson, Eric Ntabazalila, told The South African that the outstanding “admissions” document will see the accused admit or object to charges. “It’s a document that we need to give to the defence and then the defence will agree or object to whatever we give them. Usually, it’s a plain-sailing process.”

Judge Francis instructed the State to furnish the defence with the document as soon as possible so that it is in their possession when they consult with Mafe.

The matter was postponed to 4 November 2022 for a further pre-trial and for the defence to declare whether they are ready to commence with the trial. Godla said counsel would use the lengthy postponement to consult with the accused.


Judge Francis questioned Godla about the reasons for Mafe’s absence. The lawyer said he could not say for sure but he revealed a bunch of complaints the accused had to the court and suggested it may be the reason.

At Mafe’s first pre-trial conference, he refused to leave the court’s holding cells. Godla went down to speak to him and the accused told him he had been on a hunger strike for six weeks.

In court on Friday, the lawyer also revealed that Mafe had raised a number of concerns on that day for the first time.

“The complaint of Mr Mafe relates to myself because it’s taking me too long to get a date in the Supreme Court of Appeal. It’s something that’s beyond my control,” said Godla.

The accused also reportedly requested access to a kettle, a radio and a television in his cell. He allegedly told his lawyer he needed the kettle because the water was so cold in prison that it was impossible to take a bath. He also wanted to make coffee.

Godla told the court that the defence has had a number of meetings with officials at Pollsmoor Prison and the issue had reached an outcome on Thursday, 1 September.

“Ultimately, [they said] we can allow him a small radio. We cannot allow, specifically the kettle, because of incidents that are happening. As a matter of fact, I did a case where one inmate injured the other one with boiling oil. We sued the department successfully and they do not want to repeat the same mistakes,” said the lawyer.

Godla said he did not speak to Mafe on Thursday to let him know the outcome of the negotiations with the prison officials because he planned to talk to him in court. “Seemingly the outcome was conveyed to him. I will assume that he is retaliating to that.”


Judge Francis advised Godla to tell Mafe that he needs to appear in court or it could be construed as disrespect. “An accused cannot decide whether or not they want to appear,” he said.

Godla admitted that Mafe’s behaviour could jeopardise his next bail appeal and distanced himself from the incident. However, he insists the accused is not trying to disrespect the court but rather it is a means of expressing his dissatisfaction.

“I do not think he knows the repercussions and implications of what he is doing but as a legal representative, I definitely need to alert him to those things. I would not, as well, assume that he disrespects the court maybe it is a way of expressing himself… ordinary people might not know the implications of what he is doing,” he said.

Senior Counsel Dali Mpofu, who heads Mafe’s defence, will be back in Cape Town next week. Godla said the two of them will visit the accused soon.

Godla distanced himself from Mafe’s refusal to appear in court. Video: Storm Simpson/The South African.