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Zandile Mafe appears in court in Cape Town, South Africa Nardus Engelbrecht
Cape Town

Man suspected of starting fire that gutted South Africa parliament buildings appears in court

The complex in the centre of Cape Town includes some buildings that are 130 years old.

THE MAN SUSPECTED of starting the fire that gutted South Africa’s parliament buildings has appeared in court and will remain in custody pending a bail hearing.

Zandile Christmas Mafe faces several charges including arson, theft, housebreaking and contravention of the National Key Points Acts, which restricts access to government buildings, according to the local Eye Witness News website.

Mafe’s lawyer said he denies the charges. Mafe was arrested on the premises of the parliament complex by police after they noticed the fire on Sunday morning. The complex in the centre of Cape Town includes some buildings that are 130 years old.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Eric Ntabazalila told journalists outside court that Mafe was also found with an explosive device, but did not give further details.

Police have not ruled out the possibility of more arrests, said Nomthandazo Mbambo, spokeswoman for the Hawks special investigative unit of the police.

“We’re going to be conducting a full investigation and we think there may be other people involved but at this stage, the focus is on this one until the investigation can dictate otherwise,” Mbambo told media outside the courtroom.

The fire destroyed South Africa’s main parliament chamber, offices and other buildings nearby on Sunday. It flared up again on Monday when winds picked up, and burned through other offices. Firefighters battled the renewed blaze until midnight, officials said.

Parliament was closed for the holidays and no injuries have been reported in the fire.