A South African court on Wednesday sentenced two white farmers in the killing of a Black teenager they suspected of stealing sunflowers in a remote farming community.
Pieter Doorewaard, 28, and Phillip Schutte, 35, were sentenced to 18 and 23 years in prison respectively for murdering 16-year-old Matlhomola Mosweu, BBC News reported. The pair was convicted in October after being found guilty of murder, kidnapping and other charges.
Doorewaard and Schutte claimed they caught Mosweu stealing $5 worth of sunflowers from a farm in the area and that the 16-year-old had jumped out of their moving van while they were transporting him to the police station in April 2017. In reality, the pair had thrown the teen from the moving vehicle, causing him to break his neck. He died shortly afterward.
Mosweu’s death sparked riots and looting in the city of Coligny, about 125 miles west of Johannesburg, and fanned the flames of already simmering racial tensions between Black and white South Africans. As reported by The New York Times, many farms and businesses in the area are largely owned by whites and other people who aren’t native Black South Africans.
“Murder is undoubtedly the most serious offense that can be committed,” High Court Judge Ronald Hendricks said at Wednesday’s sentencing. “You picked up the deceased and threw him from the van onto the ground. Your actions that day were indeed disgraceful.”
Hendricks said that although the murder wasn’t premeditated, the men had to have known that throwing Mosweu from the truck “on the spur of the moment” would’ve likely resulted in death.
“[You are] first-time offenders,” the judge said, giving reasons for not sentencing the men to life behind bars. “However, the aggravating circumstances of this case far outweigh the mitigating [factors].”
BBC News reported that police were deployed inside the courtroom where Mosweu’s family and members of opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters, who’ve vigorously fought racism against South Africa’s Black majority, watched as Hendricks handed down the men’s sentences. The ruling comes more than a year after two white farmers were sentenced to jail after stuffing a Black farmer into a coffin, then threatening to set him on fire.
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