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South Africans protest against racism in coffin assault case

Published 16/11/2016

Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa, who was allegedly forced into a coffin, sits inside the Magistrates Court in Middelburg, South Africa (AP)
Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa, who was allegedly forced into a coffin, sits inside the Magistrates Court in Middelburg, South Africa (AP)

Two white South Africans accused of forcing a black man into a coffin and threatening to set him on fire have appeared before a judge 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 January 25.

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 petrol into the coffin. Another threat is to put a snake in the coffin.

The assaulted man, identified as Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa, had been accused of trespassing on farmland, according to South African media.

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 FW de Klerk, South Africa's last apartheid-era president, said the assault on Mlotshwa was "dehumanising and humiliating".

"We hope the justice system will reach an outcome that restores a measure of dignity to Mr. Mlotshwa," the foundation said.

AP

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