S/Africa: Coffin assault victim scared for his life

A black South African man who was allegedly forced into a coffin by two white farmers for trespassing says he was scared for his life.

Victor Mlotshwa was speaking outside court in the north-eastern town of Middelburg where his alleged attackers appeared before a magistrate.

“I thought they were going to kill me,” he said.

Reports say the two accused, Theo Martins Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen, stood with their heads bowed inside the magistrates’ court as journalists and community members took photographs of them.

They have been charged with kidnapping and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. They have not entered a plea.

The two have been remanded in custody until 25 January as prosecutors said they needed time to investigate, including authenticating the video.

Mr Mlotshwa told reporters that he had been walking home through the men’s farm, which is near Middelburg, 162km (100 miles) north-east of Johannesburg, when he was kidnapped and accused of trespassing.

“There’s a pathway through the farm to the township where I live and many of us walk through there. I tried to explain to them why I was there and they just kept beating me,” he said.

Mr Mlotshwa, still visibly shaken, told reporters he felt humiliated:

“They threatened to pour petrol on me, I pleaded for mercy and they wouldn’t listen.”

He said he was kept tied up for hours.

“I have nightmares about that day. It traumatized me.”

Mr. Mlotshwa only reported the matter after the video was circulated on social media.

Outside the court, three political parties – the governing African National Congress (ANC), the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – all jostled for the attention of the crowds that came to support Victor Mlotshwa.

The video has highlighted racial tensions in some communities in South Africa. A farm worker, who identified himself only as Bheki, said abuse at the hands of farmers was common. “We have a difficult time as black workers in this community and we are afraid to speak up, we don’t want to lose our jobs.”

This incidence has been a reminder for some that racism did not end with apartheid in South Africa.


BBC/Zainab Sa’id