The two farmers found guilty of kidnapping, assault and intent to do grievous bodily harm after shoving a man in a coffin and threatening to set him on fire have been sent to prison.
Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson were sentenced to 11 and 14 years in jail, respectively. Sentencing proceedings, which had been postponed since Monday, were heard at the Middelburg Magistrates’ Court today. The case has shocked the country and saw an outpouring of support for Victor Mlotshwa.
Defence lawyers representing the accused men had earlier asked the court to be lenient, alleging that Mlotshwa was riding a wave of public outrage ever since the video of him being assaulted in a coffin went viral last year.
Though they argued that the men were sorry for the consequences of their actions, the prosecution argued that the accused had shown little remorse. The final judgment is expected to have far-reaching consequences for race relations in the country.
The incident, which took place in August 2016, caught the country’s attention after mobile phone footage went viral. In the clip, Oosthuizen and Jackson can be seen trying to close the lid of the coffin with their boots as Mlotshwa begged for his life.
The men can be heard hurling abuse and threatening to douse him with petrol and set him on fire.
The assault took place on a farm close to Komati Power Station in Middelburg, a northeastern town, and spurred national outrage, prompting recollections of the country’s racist past.
In her judgement on August 25, Judge Segopotje Mphahlele found the men guilty of kidnapping and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm to Mlotshwa. Oosthuizen and Jackson pleaded not guilty to the charges of attempted murder saying they merely wanted to scare Mlotshwa, who they accused of cable theft.
Mlotshwa denied any wrongdoing and said he was picked up by the two men while taking a shortcut towards Middelburg.
Activists and political parties packed the courtroom during proceedings, and called for severe sentences for the men. – Al Jazeera