The Freedom Front Plus said it was absolutely outraged by the sentences handed down against ‘coffin case’ duo Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen.
Jackson was sentenced to an effective 14 years in prison this week, while Oosthuizen will now face an effective 11 years in jail. Both received sentences for assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm, intimidation and attempted murder.
Their case, which captured the imagination of the South African public, centred around their attempts to force victim Rethabile Mlotshwa into a coffin and threatening to set it alight. The event was captured on video, which fuelled racial tensions in South Africa.
The FF Plus argues that the punishment handed down to both convicts was excessive and politically charged. Leader of the FF Plus, Piet Groenewald, also said it was clear the the duo had been trialed by the media and public long before their sentences were handed down in the Middelburg High Court this week.
He lamented what he called double standards in South Africa’s judicial system.
“A few years ago, there was a case in which a white schoolgirl, Bernadine Kruger, died after being run down by a black taxi driver. The court found that the taxi driver had ‘deliberately’ tailed her across two lanes before driving her off her scooter. Initially the charge was negligence and reckless driving,” said Groenewald.
“Only after the FF Plus intervened and made representations, the charge was changed to murder. Magistrate Edmund Patterson admitted in passing the verdict that it was clearly intended murder and that it was ‘not a mistake and not negligence’. The sentence was but eight years,” added Groenewald.
Groenewald said he did not want to be misunderstood, adding that racism needed to be condemned in the strongest terms. However, he has called for consistency across the board.
“In the recent KFC case, three of the five white accused were only granted bail after nearly ten weeks and they are being charged with attempted murder while there are various versions of what really transpired and also who instigated the row.
“In another incident in August this year, a lady called Carien van Staden was shot in the chest by a black soldier who nearly ran her and her boyfriend off their motorbike. She was shot when she confronted the man. Even though her boyfriend made a video recording of the incident, the accused was not even arrested,” added Groenewald.
The FF Plus leader said the thing too many South Africans took for granted was that there was also such a thing as black-on-white racism. The argument being that it was not only whites who could be racist.
He said the outcomes of this coffin case proved that.
“In the coffin case, nobody died or was even seriously injured and the impression that is created is that the court has imposed these excessive penalties to send out the message that white-on-black racism will be severely punished. The problem with racism, however, is that it goes both ways and there is something like black-on-white racism as well,” explained Groenewald.
“Racial polarisation in South Africa is becoming more and more prominent and institutions that form part of the criminal justice system, like the police and the judicature, must set an example of impartiality.
“Unfortunately, the sentence in the coffin case proves to be the opposite and if it is not rectified in an appeal, it will only lead to more polarisation, which will seriously damage racial relations in the country,” he said.