A black South African man, Rethabile Mlotshwa, has claimed that two white Afrikaans men, Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson, crammed him into a coffin before threatening to put a snake in with him and slamming the lid.
Today, the two men appeared in court in Middelburg, South Africa for the first time after a video of the attack went viral. Over 400 protestors lined up outside the courthouse, where the two attackers were ordered to remain in custody until January whilst they were involved in what prosecutors described as a “very very serious matter.”
The incident provoked race campaigners who have described the attack as “torture”. Their cries of outrage could be heard during the court proceedings which saw Prosecutor Rean Lourens reveal an unsurprising opposition to bail. Oosthuizen and Jackson are both facing charges related to kidnapping and assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
A radical opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, have called for “a crusade against white supremacy” and labelled the incident to be a “humiliation of black people as a whole”. Again, unsurprisingly, given that earlier this year the South African Human Rights Commission received over 160 racism-related complaints.
What is shocking is that only now are the South African government in the process of introducing new laws to prosecute those who prove to be guilty of racial bigotry. In a country that is only 20 years removed from the tragedy that was the Apartheid regime, reports of racially-provoked incidents have spiked in the last few months.
This coffin case is just the tipping point, it seems, with Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema last week saying, “We are not calling for the slaughtering of white people, at least for now.”
Malema is growing in popularity amongst South Africa’s disaffected and unemployed youth, which could prove to be a dangerous factor in the country’s tense racial climate, where crime statistics claim that there is more danger in being a white farmer than there is in being a police officer.
Hopefully, Oosthuizen and Jackson are brought to justice and an amicable solution to the surge in race/hate crimes can be found by the South African government.