Pretoria – Convicted coffin assault duo Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson will file an application for leave to appeal their sentences in the Supreme Court of Appeal next week, a legal representative announced on Thursday.
The decision to challenge the sentence comes after Judge Segopotje Mphahlele dismissed the pair's leave to appeal following her judgment in the High Court sitting in the Middelburg Magistrate's Court last month.
"We will arrange to get the papers signed on Monday or latest Tuesday," Oosthuizen's attorney Marius Coertze told reporters.
He was speaking shortly after Oosthuizen and Jackson's appearance in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.
On Thursday Mphahlele amended the period of suspension for a portion of the men's sentences from eight years to five years.
Originally, Oosthuizen was sentenced to 16 years in prison, five of which were suspended for eight years on condition that he's not found guilty of any other offense. Jackson was sentenced to a 19-year-jail term, also with five years suspended for eight years.
Changes to judgment to be appealed
The men who forced Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin will still, however, spend an effective 11 years and 14 years, respectively, behind bars.
"You cannot change the judgment you made previously in this way. So we will also take this irregularity into appeal," said Coertze.
He said the pair had been kept in the sick bay of the Witbank Correctional Services facility since their sentencing.
"The prison authority said the warrants had been wrongly signed. Apparently, it was signed for 23 and 27 years, respectively, instead of 11 and 14," he said.
During sentencing, Mphahlele said the conduct of the two men was "humiliating and disgusting".
They had forced Mlotshwa into a coffin and threatened to pour petrol on him.
Pair's conduct 'against spirit of Constitution'
The incident was filmed and when the video went viral on social media, it sparked an outcry and demands for justice.
Mphahlele said the duo's conduct went against the spirit of the Constitution.
The pair's bail was revoked shortly after sentencing and Mphahlele dismissed their application for leave to appeal their jail sentences.
Jackson and Oosthuizen, who were convicted of assault, attempted murder, kidnapping and intimidation, tried to remain composed when their sentences were handed down.
They briefly held their relatives' hands as they were led down to the cells.
During their trial, the two men argued that they had to act when Mlotshwa allegedly threatened to burn their crops and murder their wives and children.
Assaulted with knobkerrie
They claimed to have caught Mlotshwa stealing copper in late 2016.
During his testimony, Jackson told the court that he was told to "get rid" of the coffin because it was causing trouble.
The coffin would have been used as crucial evidence in the case.
During his evidence-in-chief, led by his lawyer Org Basson, Jackson said he never considered what they did to Mlotshwa as wrong.
Mlotshwa had previously testified that Jackson hit him with a knobkerrie all over his body, but "mostly on the back".
He also said the two had used cable ties to restrain him.