Two White South Africans Accused of Forcing Black Man Into Coffin in Racist Attack

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), supporter holds a placard outside the court in Middelburg, South Africa, 16, 2016. AP
Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa, who was allegedly forced into a coffin, sits inside the Magistrates Court in Middelburg, South Africa, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. AP

Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa, who was allegedly forced into a coffin, sits inside the Magistrates Court in Middelburg, South Africa, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. AP

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 on Wednesday 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.

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