South Africa moves 'coffin' assault case to high court

Theo Martins (L) and Willem Oosthuizen in court
Image caption Theo Martins Jackson (L) and Willem Oosthuizen (R) have been in custody since November

The trial of two white farmers accused of forcing a black South African into a coffin and threatening to douse him in petrol and burn him alive has been moved to a high court.

Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson are alleged to have threatened to put a snake into the coffin with Victor Mlotshwa when he resisted.

The trial in Mpumalanga province is now due to take place at the end of July.

The accused are expected to enter an official plea then.

Proceedings had been scheduled at a regional court in Middelburg on Monday, but have been switched to 31 July - 10 August in the nearby town of Delmas.

The men are charged with kidnapping and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and attempted murder.

They were arrested after video of the alleged incident was posted on YouTube.

In sworn statements in a previous appearance, the men said they had wanted to teach Mr Mlotshwa a lesson for trespassing on their farm but meant him no harm.

But a magistrate said the farmers had been sadistic and racist.

Mr Mlotshwa only reported the matter after footage of the alleged assault in August 2016 emerged months later.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Victor Mlotshwa says he was walking home when he was kidnapped and assaulted

The 20-second video, shot on 17 August, was circulated on social media and caused outrage.

It shows a white man forcing a black man inside a coffin, and threatening to pour petrol over him and set it alight.

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg said the video had highlighted racial tensions in some communities here, with allegations that abuse at the hands of farmers was common.

This case has been a reminder for some that racism did not end with apartheid and in small communities, change comes at a slow pace - if at all, she said.

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