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South Africa coffin case: ‘Racist’ farmers sentenced to prison

Two South African white farmers who forced a black man into a coffin have been sentenced to 24 years in jail.

Theo Martins Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen were convicted in August for attempted murder and kidnapping after they forced Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin threatening to burn him alive.

They had accused Mlotshwa of trespassing on their land.

Oosthuizen was jailed for 11 years and Jackson was jailed for 14 years.

Part of their sentence is also for assaulting the only witness in an attempt to stop him from testifying.

The case has caused outrage in South Africa and highlighted racial tensions in some farming communities, says the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

Mr Mlotshwa only reported the matter after footage of the assault emerged on YouTube months later.

According to BBC, Jackson and Oosthuizen said they did not mean to harm Mlotshwa when the assault happened in August 2016 but merely wanted to “teach him a lesson”.

Mr Mlotshwa denied trespassing, saying he was taking a short cut to the shops, where he had been sent by his mother.

The two farmers laid their heads on the bench and some of their relatives wept in the public gallery after the judge handed down her judgement at the court in Middelburg, 165km (100 miles) east of Johannesburg, reports the AFP news agency.

Judge Segopotje Mphahlele said her sentence was influenced by the fact that men seemed to have been driven by racism when they attacked Mr Molotshwa and had shown no remorse during the proceedings.

“Both men are aged 29 and 30 and would have spent most of their lives in democratic South Africa,” she said, adding that she wanted to send a harsh message to communities that still practised racism.

The two intend to appeal the sentence.

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