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South African Court Overturns Convictions of Two White Farmers Sentenced for Killing Black Teen Over Alleged Stolen Sunflower Plants

Two white South African farmers previously convicted of murder for killing a Black teenager who had allegedly stolen sunflower plants, were acquitted Friday, Nov. 27, by the South African Supreme Court of Appeal.

Pieter Doorewaard, 28, and Phillip Schutte, 35, were convicted last year for killing 15-year-old Matlhomola Mosweu in April of 2017 after the two men caught the teenager stealing sunflowers from a farm near the small town of Coligny in South Africa’s North West province.

Doorewaard was sentenced to 18 years in prison, while Schutte was sentenced to 23 years. The men appealed their convictions to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which has ruled in their favor.

“The convictions and sentences are set aside,” said the SCA in a judgment seen by AFP. “Both accused are found not guilty and discharged.”

After catching Mosweu stealing a sunflower from their bosses’ farm, the two men put the teen in a pickup truck to transport him to police. Mosweu broke his neck when he hit the ground after tumbling out of the vehicle. The flowers were worth less than $5.

Pieter Doorewaard, 28, (L) and Philip Schutte, 35, (R), wait for their sentencing procedure on March 6, 2019 at the Mahikeng High Court in Mahikeng, South Africa. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

Doorewaard and Schutte said the boy jumped out of the truck, although the sole witnesses said he was pushed out of the vehicle.

Schutte was found to have intentionally thrown Mosweu out of the truck.

“By a split decision, the court upheld the appeal when it determined the prosecution did not prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and that the appellants should therefore be acquitted.”

On social media, users expressed sorrow and frustration about the acquittal.

The South African broadcasting Corporation tweeted that community members are calling for a re-investigation of the incident to get justice for Mosweu.

The deceased’s mother, Agnes Mosweu, spoke after the court’s decision, saying, “All I want to know is whether or not my son killed himself because they say they didn’t kill him so I want to know who did. … Even if they don’t go to prison, I am fine. They can live whatever life they want to live. … I lost a child. I have accepted that they killed him. I have accepted that my son is dead.”

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