Cape Town - Neighbours of Zandile Mafe, the man accused of starting a fire which gutted the two houses of Parliament, described him as a “quiet guy” after he appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday over the incident.
Mafe moved to Site B, Khayelitsha, in August where – according to his lawyer Luvuyo Godla – he was renting a property.
Neighbours in the area said he had been acting suspiciously around election time.
Wendy Luhabe, a neighbour, said: “To me, it wasn’t unexpected when I heard the news because that defines how he is as a person. In the area when it was election time, he said he hated the ANC. He went around the voting stations trying to persuade people to vote for another party.”
“All this behaviour made us suspicious about him. One of the things we were concerned about was that he was living alone. When he came here he had been travelling with cleaning materials, and I said ‘why would someone with no place to stay have so much cleaning materials’,” said Luhabe.
She added: “He was a quiet guy but he is not shy, and he was alone except for when he was drinking, then he would be more sociable, but mostly he was alone.”
Maggie Basse, Mafe’s next door neighbour, said: “He hasn’t been here long, he is my neighbour and he is renting. He is a quiet guy, he doesn't talk to other people and he is living there all alone in that house.”
“He didn’t interact with anybody, and when you walked past the house he just said hello but he didn’t speak much. When I heard this news, I was shocked but I feel like there was something wrong with him,” Basse said.
Family members of Mafe believe he is innocent and said he could not have committed such a crime.
In an interview with SABC News, his brother Alfred Mafe said: “From childhood, Zandile was not a violent person, he never even harmed anyone in school. I’m so surprised when I heard that Zandile is the one who burnt the National Assembly.
“I maintain that Zandile is not the one who burnt Parliament. Zandile is not the type of person who can take the decision to burn Parliament,'' He said.
Questions have been raised about where Mafe was arrested on Sunday, but the Hawks confirmed that he was apprehended within the parliamentary complex.
Hawks spokesperson Nomthandazo Mbambo said: “We can confirm that we’ve got the right person, the person was found at the scene as we indicated earlier that he was arrested at the premises, which is Parliament.
“He was found in possession of certain items and other items are believed to have been stolen. As mentioned in court, there are also items found in his possession, but we cannot explain or give details at this stage because they are subject to investigation,” Mbambo said.