White farmers force black man into coffin and threaten to burn him alive in South Africa

Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson on trial for kidnapping and assault

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The Independent Online

Footage has emerged showing two white South African farmers forcing a black man into a coffin and threatening to burn him alive.

Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson, both 28, have been charged with kidnapping and assaulting their victim eastern province of Mpumalanga.

They were remanded in custody by a judge at Middelburg magistrates’ court on Wednesday ahead of another hearing in January.

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Theo Jackson (L) and Willem Oosthuizen (R), on trial for allegedly assaulting a black man and forcing him into a coffin, on trial in Middleburg, South Africa, 16 November (EPA)

The pair are believed to have recorded footage of the attack on  27-year-old Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa themselves, with a short video showing on of the men forcing the wailing man into a coffin and pushing the lid down on his dead.

“Come, come. We want to throw the petrol on,” he said in Afrikaans, according to a translation by the News24 website.

They are also accused of threatening to put a snake in the coffin before Mr Mlotshwa managed to escape.

He told ENCA television he was walking to the town of Middelburg and decided to use a short cut when the two men spotted him.

“They accused me of trespassing. Then they beat me up and I had to run away,” he said, adding he tried to flee but was caught.

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Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members outside a court during the trial of two men accused of forcing a black man into a coffin in Middelburg, South Africa, 16 November (Reuters)

“They tied me with cable tie and took me to the nearest farm. They beat me up and forced me into the coffin.”

The trial has reignited public debate about racially motivated attacks that continue across South Africa, where deep divides continue 22 years after apartheid was abolished.

The radical left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, which campaigns for a more even distribution of wealth between white and black South Africans, led a rally outside the court.

“This humiliation can be based on nothing else but his blackness, which means it is in actual fact a humiliation of black people as a whole,” it said in a statement.

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, an EFF spokesperson, told party members that it is “impossible” for white South Africans to see black people as fellow equals at the rally.

“This country has a very painful past which still seems to be our present, in which black people continue to be treated like animals,” he said.

“We are still in the same position we were under apartheid.”

At a separate rally outside the court, the members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said white people were “torturing” black South Africans.

“We will make sure that those who are still racist, especially white people who are still racist, we will drive them to the sea so that they go back to where they come from,” said the ANC's youth league deputy president, Desmond Moela.

Black people make up 80 per cent of South Africa's 54 million population but most of the country’s wealth remains in the hands of white residents, who account for only 8 per cent of the population.

Campaigners continue to call for a law specifically criminalising racism following a strong of high-profile incidents, including black pupils being called “monkeys” by teachers at a previously whites-only girls school.

Additional reporting by agencies