South Africans protest against racism in coffin assault case

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2016 5:05 AM

MIDDELBURG, South Africa (AP) — 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 town in Mpumalanga province, where the case against the two detained farmers was postponed until Jan. 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 gasoline in 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.

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.