A pre-trial hearing of two South African white men accused of forcing a black man into a coffin has been adjourned until March, in a case that brought race relations in the country back into the spotlight. The accused pair, Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson, were charged in November with assault and intent to cause grievous bodily harm, after a video emerged online showing them pushing Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin and threatening to bury him alive in Middelburg, about 160km east of Johannesburg. The 20-second video, which was widely circulated on social media, shows the victim cowering inside a coffin, wailing as one man pushes a lid on his head and the other threatens to put petrol and a snake inside the coffin. Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from Middelburg where the pre-trial was being held on Wednesday, said the case had created widespread public interest and rage. What a shame on these two South African men.
“Protesters from all three major political parties in South Africa have come here with banners, singing, chanting, demanding that the accused face the full force of the law,” she said. ‘Brutal racism’
The two accused have been denied bail twice, with judges describing their act as an act of “brutal racism”.
“Mlotshwa says he was kidnapped walking down a road,” Page said.
“They took him to a particular farm where they threatened to douse him with petrol; they called him derogatory names, beat him and forced him into the coffin.”
At a previous court apperance, the accused pair told judges Mlotshwa was trespassing on their farm in Middelburg and was in possession of stolen copper cables.
Back in November, Mlotshwa told reporters outside the court that he wanted justice.
“They were accusing me of trespassing. They beat me up and forced me into the coffin,” he said.
“Incidents like this show that there is still huge racism out there; a huge divide, and a total misunderstanding between race groups,” Mienke Steytler, of South Africa’s Institute of Race Relations, told Al Jazeera.
“With regards to the coffin case, these two young men do have racism ingrained in them.”
However there are several racial incidents of blacks upon whites and the cases in most circumstances have been hidden by the police. It’s therefore a blame-blame situation around the country clearly stating that more has to be done to completely bury the skin battles that continue to destroy the integrity of the South African nation.
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