‘Coffin case’ duo want correctional supervision, not imprisonment

 Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson Picture: Felix Dlangamandla
Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

Judgment has been reserved in the case against Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson, who were sentenced to 11 and 14 years respectively after forcing Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin.

The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein heard arguments this morning by the men, who appealed their sentences.

Oosthuizen and Jackson were found guilty in August last year of attempted murder, two counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, kidnapping and intimidation.

Justices Mahomed Navsa, Nigel Willis and Ashton Schippers represented the Supreme Court of Appeals, and questioned defence attorneys for the pair, Advocates Wayne Gibbs and Org Basson, as to why they should be granted bail.

Navas spoke about a slim chance of the pair escaping a “custodial sentence”, in which a sentence or punishment is imposed upon a criminally charged person who has to serve their punishment in prison.

Basson said that they sought to have the pair be granted a non-custodial sentence under correctional supervision.

A video emerged in November 2016 of them forcing Mlotshwa into a coffin and threatening to pour petrol over him, with Mlotshwa begging for his life.

Oosthuizen and Jackson, who were farmers at the time, had accused him of stealing copper cables and trespassing.

The pair have continuously denied that racism was the motive behind their actions

The trial garnered international interest.

The Daily Mail UK had reported in August last year on the trial, saying that “South Africa is beset by deep-rooted racial inequality 23 years after the end of white-minority apartheid rule, and cases of racism have erupted regularly on social media in recent years.”

BBC News reported on the sentencing signalling a change in governance.

“For many South Africans, to watch on live television a black female judge sentencing white males for a racist attack on a young black man is a sign that things are slowly changing in this nation defined in its past by racial supremacy,” it reported after Judge Segopotje Mphahlele sentenced the pair in Middleburg.

Despite widespread condemnation both locally and internationally, many organisations vouched for the ruling in helping to curb racism within South Africa.

Amnesty International South Africa said last year that a “clear message” was being sent that racism and discrimination would not be tolerated.

The South African Human Rights Commission also considered taking action against the pair in November last year and threatened to take them to the Equality Court.

A previous case that ended up in the Equality Court was the racist rant by former estate agent Vicki Momberg, who was in March sentenced to two years in prison after calling a police officer the K-word following an attempted hijacking incident in 2016. This incident was also caught on video.

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