South African farmers jailed for forcing black man into coffin


MIDDELBURG, South Africa (Reuters) – Two white South African farmers who were filmed pushing a wailing black man into a coffin were sentenced to jail on Friday for attempted murder, assault and kidnapping.

Theo Martins, left, and Willem Oosthuizen first appeared in court in November [Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

Victor Mlotshwa reacts after farmers Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins were sentenced for kidnap, assault and attempted murder, in connection with forcing Mlotshwa into a coffin, in Middelburg, South Africa, October 27, 2017. 

The 20-second video, widely circulated on social media last year, shows the victim Victor Mlotshwa cowering inside a coffin as one man pushes the lid down and the other threatens to put petrol and a snake inside.

The defendants Theo Martins, sentenced to 14 years, and Willem Oosthuizen, sentenced to 11 years, had pleaded not guilty.

The two said they had caught Mlotshwa trespassing on their farm in possession of stolen copper cables.

The case, heard at a court in Middelburg, about 160 km (100 miles) east of the capital Pretoria, has caused outrage in a country where deep racial divides persist 23 years after the fall of apartheid.

Black people make up 80 percent of South Africa’s 54 million population yet most its wealth remains in the hands of white people who account for about 8 percent of the population.

The defense immediately requested to be allowed to appeal against the sentence, but it was not clear whether they would be granted the right to lodge a formal appeal.

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