Neighbours of a man accused of setting fire to Parliament say Zandile Christmas Mafe was a “loner” who displayed erratic behaviour.
At times the 49-year-old could be seen sweeping sand in the alleys between the Q-Section houses in Khayelitsha.
Next-door neighbour Maggie Basse says Mafe, from Mahikeng, moved into the neighbourhood in August.
“He is a loner, keeps to himself, all you ever hear is when he greets and that is it,” she says.
“We only know that he moved from Mfuleni.”
The woman says unemployed Mafe had been acting strangely before he disappeared from the area a week ago to go and sleep on the streets of the city centre.
“He would leave his shack wide open while playing music on TV and then walk about 500 metres to the bus stop in the main road and would tell everyone boarding that he also wants to ride.
“And then he started sweeping the sand in the gangetjie, that was quite concerning.
“I am not quite surprised by what happened to him [arrest], only because of his weird ways. My other neighbour said she saw him in town and he was roaming the streets. They only greeted each other.”
Maggie tells the Daily Voice that Mafe never had visitors.
“We never saw him with anyone in his shack, we don’t know his family,” she explains.
“The man who brought him into the area left and now lives in Covid.
“He doesn’t even know how to speak IsiXhosa, he speaks Setswana and Afrikaans.”
Mafe was arrested on Sunday after a fire consumed most parts of the building.
He is facing two counts of arson, theft, housebreaking and contravention of the National Key Points Act.
His lawyer Luvuyo Godla says Mafe left his Mahikeng home six years ago to find a job in Cape Town.
He lived in Langa before he ended up in Khayelitsha.
“He is not homeless, he has a home, people like to label people from informal settlements as homeless,” says Godla.
“He has a mother and siblings but they are all back in Mahikeng.”