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South Africa: exemplary punishment for two whites who put a black man in a coffin

Ⓒ AFP – GIANLUIGI GUERCIA – | Willem Oosthuizen (C / G) and Theo Jackson (C / D), two farmers convicted of trying to lock up a black man in a coffin and threatened to burn him at the Middelburg court in South Africa on 27 October 2017

The South African justice heavily condemned Friday two white men who tried to lock a black man in a coffin and threatened to burn him, a case that illustrates the persistence of racial tensions twenty-three years after the end of apartheid.

Theo Martins Jackson, 29, was sentenced to 19 years ‘imprisonment, five of which were suspended, and Willem Oosthuizen, 30, to sixteen years’ imprisonment, five of which were suspended, by a court in Middelburg (north-east). ).

Ⓒ AFP – GIANLUIGI GUERCIA – | Supporters of the ruling ANC carry a parody of coffin to celebrate the condemnation of two farmers accused of trying to lock up a black man and threatening to burn him in Middelburg on 27 October 2017

“The behavior of the accused has been dehumanizing and disgusting,” Judge Segopotje Mphahlele lashed out, saying he had “fueled racial tensions” in the country.

The two farmers, who had pleaded not guilty, nervously welcomed their condemnation, head down, while members of their families burst into tears in the audience.

Supported by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), their victim, Victor Mlotshwa, smiled broadly.

The facts go back to last year, but the case did not come to light until several months later, after the broadcast on the internet of a video filmed on the mobile phone showing the ordeal inflicted on Victor Mlotshwa.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – WIKUS DE WET – | Victor Mlotshwa (C) attends the trial of two farmers who tried to lock him in a coffin and threatened to burn him in Middelburg, South Africa, October 23, 2017

On this 20-second film, the 27-year-old Black is lying in a brand new coffin, placed on a rocky and dusty ground. One of the farmers tries to close the coffin, while the victim moans and tries to stop him.

On a second equally overwhelming video revealed during the trial, the young man begs “please, do not kill me”.

“Why not do it when you kill our farm?”, Retorted one of his attackers, who threatened to throw a snake or gasoline into the coffin to burn him alive.

During the trial, which sparked a great deal of interest in South Africa, the two farmers claimed that they only wanted to scare the victim they thought had stolen copper cables.

– ‘Absence of remorse’ –

Victor Mlotshwa explained that he was simply going to Middelburg by cutting across the fields to go shopping for his mother when he was attacked.

Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson were convicted of attempted murder, kidnapping, assault and intimidation at the end of their trial in August and released on bail pending sentencing.

In her verdict on Friday, Judge Mphahlele said it was not the first such incident involving the two defendants and that their “attitude during the trial clearly demonstrated an absence of remorse”.

She also rejected the appeal immediately formed by the two convicts.

A lawyer from both farmers, Marius Coertze, announced that he would now challenge the decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal. “I was shocked by this conviction because no one died,” he said, regretting the pressure from the media and public opinion.

Through his Minister of Communications, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the South African government welcomed the verdict, hoping it “deters other inhuman and racist acts” in the country.

“This condemnation clearly reaffirms that racism, whatever its form, will not be tolerated in South Africa”, for its part congratulated the elected James Masango, on behalf of the Democratic Alliance (DA, opposition) .

At the end of this “ridiculous affair”, the message sent by the court is that “racism and discrimination are not allowed” in the country, also reacted Amnesty International.

Nearly a quarter of a century after the official end of the segregationist regime in South Africa, racist attacks continue to poison relations between the black majority and the white minority, particularly in rural areas.

In April-May, violent clashes erupted in the village of Coligny (north-west), after the release on bail of two white men suspected in the death of a black teenager.

The persistence of economic inequalities between blacks and whites makes bitter freedom in the young “rainbow” democracy.

According to official statistics, 30.1% of the black majority is unemployed, compared to 6.6% of whites. And the median monthly salary of blacks is 2,800 rand (180 euros) against 10,000 rand (642 euros) for whites.

vid-GW-pa / bed / jh

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