South Africa coffin case: White farmers receive jail terms

South Africa coffin case: White farmers receive jail terms
Photo Credit To Image copyrightREUTERS Image captionWillem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson had denied any wrongdoing

Two white farmers in South Africa who forced a black man into a coffin have been sentenced to jail for more than 10 years each.

Theo Martins Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen were convicted in August for attempted murder and kidnapping.

They accused Victor Mlotshwa of trespassing on their land, beat him up, made him get into a coffin and threatened to burn him alive.

Jackson, 30, will be jailed for 14 years and Oosthuizen, 29, for 11 years.

Part of their sentence is also for assaulting the only witness in an attempt to stop him from testifying.

Analysis: A changing nation

By Milton Nkosi, BBC News, Johannesburg

Victor Mlotshwa being welcomed by supporters at the Middelburg court in South Africa - October 2017Image copyrightAFP
Image captionGoverning ANC party supporters have been backing Victor Mlotshwa (C) through the case

The case has caused outrage in South Africa and highlighted racial tensions in the country – and in some farming communities. The courtroom today was fraught with emotion.

The judge looked visibly angry as she explained that throughout the trial the accused had shown “no remorse” for what they did.

For many South Africans, to watch on live television a black female judge sentencing white males for a racist attack on a young black man is a sign that things are slowly changing in this nation defined in its past by racial supremacy.

Twenty-three years after the end of apartheid, some will see it as a sign that the country may be coming of age.

Mr Mlotshwa only reported the matter after footage of the assault emerged on YouTube months later.

In a court affidavit, Jackson and Oosthuizen said they did not mean to harm Mr Mlotshwa when the assault happened in August 2016 but merely wanted to “teach him a lesson”.

Mr Mlotshwa denied trespassing, saying he was taking a short cut to the shops, where he had been sent by his mother.

The two farmers laid their heads on the bench and some of their relatives wept in the public gallery after the sentencing at the court in Middelburg, 165km (100 miles) east of Johannesburg, reports the AFP news agency.

Victor Mlotshwa reacts in Middelburg, South Africa, October 27, 2017.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionVictor Mlotshwa was walking home when he was kidnapped and assaulted

Judge Segopotje Mphahlele said her sentence was influenced by the fact that men seemed to have been driven by racism when they attacked Mr Molotshwa and had shown no remorse during the proceedings.

“Both men are aged 29 and 30 and would have spent most of their lives in democratic South Africa,” she said, adding that she wanted to send a harsh message to communities that still practised racism.

She sentenced Jackson to 19 years, with five years suspended – meaning he should serve 14 years behind bars and Oosthuizen to 16 years, five of which are suspended – meaning he should serve 11 years in jail.

The two intend to appeal the sentence.


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