South Africans protest against racism in cof­fin as­sault case

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MID­DEL­BURG, SOUTH AFRICA: Two white South Africans ac­cused of forc­ing a black man into a cof­fin and threat­en­ing to set him on fire ap­peared be­fore a judge yes­ter­day as demon­stra­tors protested against racism out­side the court­house.

Mem­bers of the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress party and op­po­si­tion par­ties gath­ered out­side the court in Mid­del­burg in Mpumalanga prov­ince, where the judge post­poned the case against the two de­tained farm­ers un­til Jan. 25. The two men said they did not ap­ply for bail be­cause they would fear for their lives if re­leased, the African News Agency re­ported.

A video show­ing the racially charged in­ci­dent has cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia, in­ten­si­fy­ing de­bate about South Africa’s legacy of white mi­nor­ity rule, which ended in 1994. The video shows a man cow­er­ing and moan­ing in a cof­fin as a tor­men­tor pushes part of the lid over his head and up­per body. A man is also heard threat­en­ing to pour gaso­line in the cof­fin. An­other threat is to put a snake in the cof­fin.

The as­saulted man, Vic­tor Retha­bile Mlotshwa, said the two men ac­cused him of tres­pass­ing on their farm after he used a foot­path in the area. “The next thing, there was a grave and then a cof­fin. There was noth­ing I could do be­cause the other man had a gun,” Mlotshwa said, ac­cord­ing to the News24 me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Pro­test­ers at the court­house in­cluded mem­bers of the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers, an op­po­si­tion party that wants land held by the white mi­nor­ity to be re­dis­tributed to poor blacks. “They still ben­e­fit out of a crime, a crime against hu­man­ity,” Mbuyiseni Nd­lozi, a spokesman for the op­po­si­tion group, said of the white mi­nor­ity. He said it was wrong to for­give whites after apartheid but “still keep them in a po­si­tion of dom­i­nance.”

South Africa won praise for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts among racial groups when apartheid ended, but many black South Africans ex­press frus­tra­tion that they have failed to reap the eco­nomic ben­e­fits they ex­pected from democ­racy. The in­come of the av­er­age white house­hold is six times that of a black house­hold, ac­cord­ing to 2011 cen­sus data.

The foun­da­tion of F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid-era pres­i­dent, said the as­sault on Mlotshwa was de­hu­man­iz­ing and hu­mil­i­at­ing. “We hope the jus­tice sys­tem will reach an out­come that re­stores a mea­sure of dig­nity to Mr. Mlotshwa,” the foun­da­tion said.

MID­DEL­BURG, SOUTH AFRICA: An Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF), supporter holds a plac­ard out­side the high court yes­ter­day.

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