The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation calls on law enforcement agencies to impose the toughest possible sanctions against the two individuals accused in the recent #CoffinAssault case, following thorough investigation.
Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson stand accused of forcing Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa (27) into a coffin and threatening to set him alight. Footage of the incident, which reportedly took place near Middleburg, went viral on social media, sparking outrage.
“The brutality of the incident is shocking,” said Neeshan Balton, the Foundation’s Director, noting that the racial dynamics of the situation was highly disturbing.
“Of all the hideous acts of racism that has plagued South Africa of late, the incident of placing Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa in a coffin and threatening to burn him is amongst the most despicable. This incident has parallels to the type of treatment meted out to African Americans by the Klu Klux Klan and one can only speculate whether the emergence of Trump in the USA has emboldened racists here to the extent that they feel brazen enough to carry out acts such as this,” Balton said.
“South Africans of all races should condemn both the violence of the incident and the fact that 22 years into democracy, we still have a situation where two white individuals think that it is okay to treat a black individual in the most inhumane way. In an interview, the victim states that he was accused of trespassing. We want to know from Oosthuizen and Jackson, that if they indeed thought that Mlotshwa was trespassing, did they consider calling the police, and if not, why. It would be the logical thing to do. The illogical and extremely brutal manner in which the situation was dealt with can only point to deep-seated racist attitudes,” Balton added.
“Ours is a Constitutional democracy, where the values of non-racialism and basic human rights and dignity is sacrosanct. We are glad that the case has gone to Court. We hope that the judiciary will be guided by the recent Constitutional Court ruling on the SAR’s racial incident, and hand down the most severe punishment possible for this crime. The incident should also indicate that there should be a heightened sense of urgency to finalise the National Action Plan to combat racism and other forms of discrimination, so that as a country, we have a single, cohesive strategy to tackle racism.”
Balton added that the general public, as well as political parties and the media needed to be commended for ensuring that the issue was highlighted and ‘not swept under the carpet’. “It is this sort of awareness and outspokenness against acts of racism that we hope to continue seeing from the public,” he said.
Oosthuizen and Jackson will remain in custody until their next appearance on January 25, 2017.