Flash Briefing: SA Parliament fire suspect charged with terrorism; National Assembly sittings to return to Parliamentary precinct after SONA; JHB electricity price hikes

  • A South African court has charged a man suspected of starting a devastating fire that gutted South Africa’s parliament with “terrorism”, adding to robbery and arson accusations, as he made his second appearance in court on Tuesday. Zandile Christmas Mafe, 49, was arrested near the parliament complex after the fire broke out on January 2 and appeared in court three days later. He was initially charged with breaking into parliament, arson and intention to steal property, including laptops, crockery and documents, before the new terrorism charge was added on Tuesday. The blaze broke out in the Cape Town complex before dawn on January 2, spreading to the National Assembly, the roof of which collapsed. Protesters outside the court building demanded his release saying he was a scapegoat. Defence lawyer Dali Mpofu said that Mafe was last week “taken for mental observation on January 3” and diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia”.
  • After the State of the Nation Address next month, parliament will continue sitting in the parliamentary precinct, moving to the Good Hope Chamber which was spared in the Parliament fire earlier this month. The SONA and post-SONA debates will take place in the Cape Town City Hall. There have been calls to use the damage caused by the fire as an opportunity to move parliament to Tshwane; however, this is not an option being considered at present. Officials are looking at repairing or rebuilding parliament, but say this will take time. 
  • Fixed fees and electricity price hikes are making life for Joburg residents hell when it comes to affordable power, with a price comparison showing that post-paid residential customers in the city are getting a raw deal. The two fixed charges in the city – a network charge and capacity charge – now total R825 a month, meaning residents get barely any power with a monthly spend of R1,000 compared to other major metros. Prepaid customers in the city, however, still receive the best deal – for now. The city has made several attempts at introducing fixed monthly fees for prepaid users as well, but this has not yet been implemented.
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