#CoffinAssault perpetrators are only sorry they were caught

In August 2016, Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen forced Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin and threatened to set it alight. Their attack was caught on video and sparked outrage nationwide, and for good reason. It is excruciating to watch. It shows the two men forcing Mlotshwa into a wooden coffin, using their power in a way that hearkens back to the days of apartheid.

On Friday, Jackson and Oosthuizen were finally sentenced to 11 and 14 years in jail respectively in the High Court sitting in Middelburg. They were convicted of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, intimidation, and attempted murder.

In many ways, action and justice had been served; it is quite a relief the two men who had committed such a heinous crime would not be let off easily.

But even then, judge Segopotje Mphahlele acknowledged that the lack of remorse from the two men was problematic. In truth, the two men still don’t believe they did anything wrong.

Jackson had told the court he was sorry that his action had caused such grief for his family.

“I regret putting him in the coffin and not taking him to the police station‚” Theo Jackson said in court on Monday.

Wayne Gibbs, one of the advocates representing the pair, said their clients could not say they were sorry for attempted murder‚ because they did not try to kill him.

It’s unsurprising that the lawyers of the two men will appeal their sentencing, one that they described as “shocking” and “political”.

From the start, Jackson and Oosthuizen pleaded not guilty to all the charges even though they admitted that they had placed Mlotshwa in the coffin because they wanted to “scare him”.

Mlotshwa said he had been in possession of stolen copper cables then attempted to flee when he was caught. Oosthuizen said he wanted to try to stop Mlotshwa from threatening to kill their families … and deter him from stealing again.

Defence lawyers insisted that despite that fact that Mlotshwa was placed into a coffin, there is no evidence that he suffered any trauma. This is a remarkable claim to make.

In his testimony earlier this week, Mlotshwa said he was afraid to go out in public, that he still suffered from nightmares and a fear of people he was unfamiliar with. He has since received counselling and moved away from the area where the assault took place.

It is vile that two white men decided to take the law into their own hands and teach a man who is vulnerable to their power a lesson for common theft. In a South Africa that has not yet healed from its past, allowing actions that erode the dignity of the black man to unpunished would be unjust.

If we are serious about human dignity and anti-racism, we need to hold abhorrently racist actions accountable.

Oosthuizen and Jackson’s treatment of Mlotshwa was inhumane and disgusting, a traumatic experience for anyone to have to undergo.

Besides their imprisonment, they should be prodded to make a formal apology to Mlotshwa and to South Africa.

Featured image by Azad Essa
  1. Henry Price Jr. says

    comrades it is absurd to as much as acknowledge that 11 or 14 years imprisonment for intent to murder by suffocation in a casket is a shocking sentence. Yes! If shocking it is shockingly low plus under total circumstance defendants had to have had a damn good lawyer. They should have received life imprisonment but if intent was to give parolable sentence they should have received not a day under 25 years. South Africa still suffer from Apartheid preferential treatment for caucasians. I guess it will take generations to change that if it change at all. Very much sincere, Henry Price Jr. aka Obediah Buntu IL-Khan aka Kankan aka Gue.

    1. Sam says

      This is a mere blip compared to the gruesome farm murders that happen every day.

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