A court in South Africa has sentenced two white farmers who forced a black man into a coffin to jail for more than 10 years each.
Willem Oosthuizen andTheo JacksonTheo Jackson were sentenced to 11 and 14 years in jail respectively. The two were found guilty of kidnapping, assault and intent to do grievous bodily harm when they shoved Victor Mlotshwa in a coffin and threatened to set him on fire.
They were also charged for assaulting a witness as a way to stop him from testifying.
The incident, which took place in August 2016, would not have seen the light of day if not for a video that was posted online, prompting Mlotshwa to report the matter.
In their defence, Oosthuizen and Jackson said they only wanted to teach Mlotshwa a lesson for allegedly threatening to kill their families and burn down their farms. According to Mlotshwa, he had taken a short cut to go to the shops.
The case was heard in August, when the two accused were found guilty but sentencing was postponed to October 23.
We welcome the sentences handed down on the #CoffinAssault culprits who were respectively sentenced to 11 & 14 years direct imprisonment.
— Min. Nathi Mthethwa (@NathiMthethwaSA) October 27, 2017
On Monday, Judge Segopotje Mphahlele postponed the sentencing to today, stating that she needed more time. More than 250 people gathered at the court to show support to Mlotshwa.
In her judgement, Judge Mphahlele stated that the racism of the two men in their attack and lack of remorse during the proceedings influenced her sentence.
Judge Mphahlele sentenced Oosthuizen to a 16 years with five year suspended term and Jackson to 19 years with five-years suspended term.
Mlotswha was happy with the sentencing, and his supporters including the ruling African National Congress party celebrated after the judgment was handed down.
The country’s Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa commented on the sentencing on Twitter saying: “These prison sentences should serve as a stern warning and illustrate that we will not tolerate racism in our society. #CoffinAssault” “Furthermore, the jail terms handed down to the #CoffinAssault culprits serves as a victory in our fight against racism,” Mthethwa wrote in a post.
Oosthuizen and Jackson, who broke down during the sentencing, intend to appeal the sentence.
The judgement sets a lesson and precedent in a country that still faces racial inequality, years after the abolishment of the apartheid era.
Incidents of racism have been flaring across the country, with the most recent being a job advertisement seeking white candidates by a recruitment agency. Maritzburg College was also under scrutiny over racism, with the Kwa Zulu Natal Department of Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthetwa confirming that a full scale investigation into such claims would be opened.
Judge Mphahlele’s ruling is still causing ripples across the country, with human rights activists praising the move.
Last year, Penny Sparrow a white South African realtor was fined R150,000 (U.S$9,800) by the Equality Court in KwaZulu-Natal for racial remarks after she made disparaging comments comparing black people to monkeys, which constitute hate speech.
In another incident, Vicki Momberg a victim of a smash-and-grab crime was last year captured spewing insults at black police officers shouting: “One k***** is bad enough…The k*****s here in Johannnesburg are terrible”, “We got a low calibre people working. If I see a black person, I will drive them over. If I have a gun, I will shoot everyone”. The incident also caused a major public outrage and the public called for stiff penalties to perpetrators on racist and hate crimes.