Two white South African poultry farmers, Theo Martins and Willem Oosthuzien appeared in court Wednesday on charges of assault and kidnapping after an online video emerged showing them pushing a black man into a coffin and threatening to burn him alive
The 20-second video, which was widely circulated on social media, shows Victor Mlotshwa cowering inside a coffin as one man pushes a lid on his head and the other threatens to put petrol and a snake inside the casket.
The incident took place at JM De Beer Boerdery, a chicken farm which the EFF has called to be invaded and occupied.
“They were accusing me of trespassing. They beat me up and forced me into the coffin,” said Mlotshwa.
The case has caused outrage in a country where deep racial divides persist 22 years after the fall of apartheid.
Martins and Oosthuizen appeared briefly in the Middelburg Magistrate court east of the capital Pretoria before the case was postponed until January 25. The men will remain in custody until the case resumes.
Prosecutor Rean Lourens told the court: “This is a very very serious matter and we oppose bail in the strongest terms. The accused know the identity of their accuser and there is a real threat that he and other witnesses could be intimidated or threatened.
“This case has also provoked a public outcry and there is a lot of tension and threats surrounding it, so there is also a public order consideration in arguing about bail.”
More than 400 protestors, held back by a line of police, called for ‘revenge’ outside the magistrates’ court as prosecutors warned that the ‘very very serious matter’ could threaten public order.
Campaigners described Mr. Mlotshwa’s ordeal as ‘torture’ in comments outside court as they paraded him in front of the crowd. His mother, who was at his side to support him, then collapsed.
Meanwhile, 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,” the EFF said in a statement.
The EFF described the incident as ‘a humiliation of black people as a whole’ and its secretary-general Godrich Gardee called for the white men ‘to be found and taught a lesson’.
According to EFF Mlotshwa was walking home with a friend across land belonging to the men’s chicken farm in Blinkpan, a farming and mining town 100 miles east of Johannesburg, when they were seized and set upon by two white men.
“The other guy managed to escape, but they held on to Victor and then began to torture him. The farm is next to an informal settlement and people often take a short cut across the land.”
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.
SOURCES: REUTERS, MAIL ONLINE