Thobela Xoseni cut a confused figure as he stood in the dock on Wednesday, after being arrested in connection with last weekend's train fires at Cape Town station.
The tall thin man, in a worn black blazer, sharp beard and high cheekbones, rubbed his hair and wrung his hands as Magistrate Greg Jacobs addressed him at his first appearance in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court.
"This is a very serious matter," said Jacobs.
"I would advise you to apply for Legal Aid if you can't afford an attorney," he said.
Xoseni opted for Legal Aid.
Jacobs heard from the prosecutor that it had been patrolling security guards who had smelled smoke at the station on Sunday afternoon and raised the alarm. CCTV footage led to Xoseni's arrest on Monday on a charge of malicious damage to property.
However, Xoseni raised his hand suddenly and said: "I have a problem."
Jacobs allowed his Legal Aid lawyer to approach him, and Xoseni was heard to make some startling statements while speaking to her.
Legal Aid clients usually meet their lawyer for the first time over the wooden bars of a dock, and their conservations can sometimes be overheard, although this would fall under attorney-client privilege.
His lawyer stopped him quickly, and asked for a postponement to consult and to prepare for a bail application.
Xoseni was sent back to police cells and will appear again on May 2.
In the meantime, two supporters of lobby group UniteBehind - Lumkile Sizila and Abeniza Snyman - were in court to observe proceedings.
"There are not enough trains in the Western Cape and we want Transport Minister Blade Nzimande and President Cyril Ramaphosa to step in to help and declare the situation a national disaster," said Sizila.