A South African court has postponed the sentencing of two white farmers convicted of kidnapping, intimidation and assault with the intent to cause serious bodily harm after forcing a Black man into a coffin and threatening his life.
Sentencing proceedings took place at the Middleburg Magistrate’s Court for several hours Monday, Oct. 23, when Judge Segopotje Mphahlele said he needed more time to consider the fates of farmers Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson, Al Jazeera reported. The sentencing hearing was delayed until Friday.
Oosthuizen and Jackson were found guilty of attempted murder and several other charges in August 2017 after they filmed themselves shoving victim Victor Mlothshwa into a coffin as they shouted racial slurs and threatened to set him on fire last year. The incident, which occurred in August 2016, gained national attention after the video went viral.
The case sparked outrage across the nation, highlighting ongoing racial tensions 23 years after the end of apartheid.
Hundreds of local activists and political party leaders packed the courtroom Monday in a show of support for Mlothshwa, who the two farmers accused of stealing cable. About 250 demonstrators also gathered outside the courtroom to protest racism, carrying signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and sporting shirts featuring the faces of anti-apartheid activists Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, according to Al Jazeera.
“Our forefathers taught us that we are equal,” activist Luyanda Magadala said, reminding white South Africans that the country has progressed from its racist past. “They can’t treat us like this.”
Defense lawyers for the two men asked the judge for leniency, arguing that the farmers were sorry for their actions. On the other hand, prosecutors argued that Oosthuizen and Jackson weren’t remorseful at all.