By Jenna Etheridge
A man accused of setting fire to trains at the Cape Town station last month, which racked up a bill of around R33m, was on Thursday referred for mental observation.
Thobela Xoseni – dressed in pants, a black blazer without a shirt underneath – kept his hands behind his back and did not say a word when he made a brief appearance in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court.
Prosecutor Adiel Jansen explained that the district surgeon had drawn up a report after seeing the tall, thin accused.
“The doctor says he is referring or suggesting that he be referred for 30 days’ observation,” said Jansen.
Xoseni will have to wait for a bed to become available at Valkenberg psychiatric hospital.
Morne Calitz, a Legal Aid lawyer who came on record for Xoseni, confirmed he had received the report and asked that Magistrate Greg Jacobs refer his client in terms of two specific sections of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA).
Jacobs acceded to this request and postponed the matter until June 3.
In terms of the specific CPA referral, the psychiatric panel would need to determine whether Xoseni was able to understand proceedings so as to make a proper defence, or was unable to do so due to a mental defect or illness.
More than that, should it observe any mental defect or illness, the panel would need to include in its report an opinion on whether the accused could be held criminally responsible for the offence.
Xoseni will remain in custody at the hospital section of Pollsmoor prison. The district surgeon said he required certain medication and the State said it would ensure he was supported to take these pills.
The arson attack on April 21 destroyed 12 coaches, two motor coaches and nine plain trailers, according to Metrorail group chief strategy officer Dr Sipho Sithole.
It also damaged around 300m of wires that were critical to automate train control.
The court previously heard that patrolling security guards had smelled smoked at the station that Sunday afternoon and raised the alarm.
CCTV footage led to Xoseni’s arrest the following day on a charge of malicious damage to property.
Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato said that more than 40 carriages have been burnt in arson attacks since 2017.
He added that not a single person has been charged in relation to the more than 10 incidents over the past two years.