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Two South African Men Go On Trial for Forcing a Man Into a Coffin at Gun Point

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  • Two South African Men Go On Trial for Forcing a Man Into a Coffin at Gun Point

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    Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa, who was allegedly forced into a coffin, sits inside the Magistrates Court in Middelburg, South Africa, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Two white South Africans accused of forcing a black man into a coffin and threatening to set him on fire appeared before a judge on Wednesday as demonstrators protested against racism outside the courthouse. The assaulted man Mlotshwa had been accused of trespassing on farmland, according to South African media. (AP Photo)

    According to international reports, two white South African men accused of forcing a black man into a coffin and threatening to light him on fire appeared in court Wednesday, November 16, 2016.

    Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen told their judge they did want any bail because they would fear for their lives if they were released, according to the African News Agency. Their hearing drew anti-racism demonstrations by several political parties at the Middelburg courthouse.

    Jackson and Oosthuizen face charges of kidnapping, assault and intent to do grievous bodily harm in connection with a video of the attack that surfaced last week on social media.

    The victim, Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa, described the assault in a speech to the assembled crowd after the hearing.

    “They beat me up, tied me and put me into a coffin,” said Mlotshwa. He further said the pair accused him of trespassing on their property when he used a footpath on the outskirts of the large industrial and farming town west of Johannesburg.

    “The next thing, there was a grave and then a coffin,” said Mlotshwa. “There was nothing I could do because the other man had a gun.”

    Investigators said the attack happened near a power station in August 2016. A 20-second video of the attack appeared online months later.

    Mlotshwa screamed in terror as one of histormentors pushed part of the lid of the coffin over his head in the video. One or more men threatened to douse him with gasoline or put a snake in the coffin with him.

    Authorities later arrested Jackson and Oosthuizen, two farmers from the area. Prosecutors also opposed offering them bail Wednesday, and their judge postponed their case until January 25, 2017.

    Many demonstrations outside the courthouse drew on the lingering effects of the country’s former system of white rule under apartheid, which ended in 1994. The income of white South African households is six times that of black households, according to the country’s 2011 census.

    Protesters at the courthouse included members of the Economic Freedom Fighters, an opposition party that wants land held by the white minority to be redistributed to poor blacks.

    “They still benefit out of a crime, a crime against humanity,” Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, a spokesman for the opposition group, said of the white minority.

    He said it was wrong to forgive whites after apartheid but “still keep them in a position of dominance.”

    South Africa won praise for reconciliation efforts among racial groups when apartheid ended, but many Black South Africans express frustration they have failed to reap the economic benefits they expected from democracy.

    By Chuma Kisu