Coffin assault sentences widely welcomed

The High Court has sentenced Theo Jackson to 14 years and his accomplice Willem Oosthuizen to 11 years for the attack on Rethabile Mlotshwa.

FILE: Rethabile Mlotshwa with his lawyer ahead of proceedings inside the Middelburg Magistrates Court during the sentencing of Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen on 23 October 2017. Picture: Ziyanda Yono/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Justice Minister Michael Masutha has welcomed the sentences in the so-called coffin case, saying it highlights the need to strengthen the law around hate crimes.

The High Court sitting in Middelburg has sentenced Theo Jackson to 14 years and his accomplice Willem Oosthuizen to 11 years.

The pair attacked Rethabile Mlotshwa, forced him into a coffin and threatened to set it alight.

The 2016 crime was caught on camera and circulated around the world.

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, Masutha also commended the National Prosecuting Authority for securing a successful conviction.

The statement said: “The crime committed against Mlotshwa and the sentence imposed by the court highlights the need for the strengthening of the law with regard to crimes of hate speech and hate crimes in South Africa. No crime which has its basis in racism should go unpunished.”

“We believe that this strong sentence will deter would-be hate crime perpetrators in our society,” the minister added.

At the same time, government, political parties and Amnesty International have all also welcomed the sentences.

Mlotshwa, who survived the coffin attack, agrees that Friday’s sentences are a clear demonstration that the law is devoted punishing those who commit crime.

“I feel very good about the sentencing. Finally, the matter has finally come to an end and justice has been served. I’m quite happy.”

Oosthuizen and Jackson are expected to approach the Supreme Court of Appeal in a bid for lenient jail terms.