South African Prosecuting Authority Withdraws Arson Charge Against Tanzanian in Cape Town

UCT Library on fire

From Rusana Philander in Cape Town for TZ Business News.

South Africa’s  National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has withdrawn arson charges against 35 year old Tanzanian Frederick Mhangazo  earlier charged in connection to a devastating fire which gutted large hectares of vegetation on Table Mountain and buildings at the University of Cape Town (UCT).  

The suspect’s  lawyer,  Shaun Balram, said the charge of arson was withdrawn April 28, 2021,  but  the old charge has been replaced with a new charge of alleged contravention of a bylaw of the National Parks Act.  The Suspect was given bail.

Mhangazo currently lives at  a Cape Town ‘communal facility,’  which is not like a prison but a place for him to stay until his case comes up for mention June 18, 2021 in the Cape Magistrate’s Court.

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021,  Mhangazo appeared at the Cape Town Regional Court charged with alleged arson.  Earlier reports had indicated the man was cooking food in the bush at a make-ship structure he was living in on Table Mountain. South African destitutes and jobless foreigners survive in make shift structures on mountains in Cape Town. 

Frederick Mhangazo

The Tanzanian allegedly left a fire unattended in  the bush, then the fire was blown by a gust of wind until it gutted buildings. The fire flared by the wind destroyed 11  structures including houses in the Rosebank area, education buildings on the University of Cape Town campus, Heritage buildings including the Mostert’s Mill, the UCT Jagger library and a part of the Rhodes Memorial restaurant.

At the library African history was destroyed. Two major African collections were burnt. The African history monographs and the African films collection that were collected over 20 years, were also destroyed in the fire.  Nine people were taken to hospital with breathing challenges after smoke inhalation and six fire fighters sustained injuries in the line of duty.

All of the fire lines have since been extinguished. Damage assessments and an investigation into the cause of the fire are still being conducted. Mhangazo arrived in South Africa in 2013 to study.  He was arrested in April after it was suspected that he started the fire.