White South African men accused of forcing black man into coffin denied bail

Theo Martins and Willem Oosthuizen (R) appear in court after an online video emerged showing them pushing a black man into a coffin and threatening to burn him alive, at the Middelburg magistrates High Court, in Mpumalanga province, South Africa, November 16, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A South African court on Thursday denied bail to two white men charged with assault and kidnapping after a video showed them forcing a wailing black man into a coffin, an act the judge described as “brutal racism”.

The case has laid bare the racial tensions that endure more than two decades after the end of apartheid rule in 1994, as well as the inequalities between black and white people.

A 20-second video circulating on social media showing Victor Mlotshwa cowering inside a coffin as one man pushes a lid on his head and the other threatening to set the casket alight has caused public outrage.

The two accused, Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson, told the court Mlotshwa was trespassing on their farm in Middelburg about 162 km (100 miles) east of Johannesburg and was in possession of stolen copper cables.

Denying the accused bail, Magistrate Jongilizwe Dumehleli said public outrage would worsen if the applicants were freed on bail.

“When the court looked at the tragedy as it unfolded, it is clear that the assault was triggered by brutal racism,” he said. The case was adjourned to Jan. 25.

Black people make up 80 percent of South Africa’s 54 million population yet most of the economy remains in the hands of white people, who account for about 8 percent of the population.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by James Macharia and Ralph Boulton)


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