Racist coffin assault accused duo denied bail

Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa reacts next to his mother after the appearance of Theo Martins and Willem Oosthuizen in the Middelburg magistrate's court on November 16. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa reacts next to his mother after the appearance of Theo Martins and Willem Oosthuizen in the Middelburg magistrate's court on November 16. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

The two men accused of beating and forcing Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa into a coffin were denied bail at the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

Magistrate Jongilizwe Dumehleli described the actions of Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson as shocking before announcing that the two would not be granted bail. Oosthuizen and Jackson had initially decided they would not apply for bail because they feared they would be attacked after public outcry against their alleged assault on Mlotshwa. The two later decided to apply for bail but were unsuccessful.

“It is not surprising to see the whole world shocked when they saw a man shoved in a coffin.
What is shockingly aggravating, in this case, is the manner in which the victim screamed, urging the men not to do this,” Dumehleli said.

The magistrate said their families would be able to survive if Oosthuizen and Jackson remained in custody and he predicted more bloodshed would follow if they were released on bail.

Oosthuizen and Jackson said they believed Mlotshwa was a trespasser when they forced him into a coffin. In a video that went viral, the two can be heard threatening to set Mlotshwa alight. As they attempted to close the coffin with him inside, Mlotshwa could be heard crying.

The investigating officer told the court that the duo had also threatened to shoot Mlotshwa. The two also referred to Mlotshwa by the k-word. The assault and threats went on for an hour before Mlotshwa could get away, the court heard.

The two admitted in their affidavit that they had acted with negligence, saying they did not mean to cause any harm. The pair has been charged with assault, intent to cause grievous bodily harm, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.

The magistrate said the incident was clearly racially motivated, but told the two accused they could appeal his decision.

“Therefore you may instruct your legal team to proceed to the high court and persuade the high court to release you on bail. Unfortunately, in my court, I deny bail,” Dumehleli said. 

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