A South African judge on Friday handed down jail terms of 19 and 16 years to two white farmers who filmed themselves forcing a black man into a coffin and threatening to burn him alive.
Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson, who both shifted nervously in the dock, laid their heads on the bench after their sentencing while female family members wept in the public gallery. .
“The conduct of the accused was most dehumanising and disgusting,” said judge Segopotje Mphahlele. They had pleaded not guilty over the incident last year in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, saying they only intended to scare Victor Mlotshwa whom they accused of stealing copper cables from their farm.
They were convicted on August 25 of attempted murder as well as kidnap, intimidation and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Oosthuizen, 29, was sentenced to a 16-year term with five years suspended, while Jackson, 30, was jailed for 19 years, with five also suspended.
“The most appalling act of the accused was to put the complainant in a coffin against his will,” said Mphahlele. “Whilst in the coffin they threatened to set it alight. They asked him how he wanted to die — quickly or slowly.”
The judge said it was not the first time that the men had forced someone into a coffin against their will, saying their behaviour “raised and fuelled racial tension” in South Africa.
The judge ruled that the convicted men could not appeal the sentence following a bid by their legal team. A lawyer for the men, Wayne Gibbs, called the jail terms “shockingly inappropriate,” arguing that they were a result of intense media attention and public pressure.