Two white South Africans who forced a black man into a coffin have been given harsh sentences, with the judge saying they showed no remorse for the racist crime which shocked South Africa.

The two farmers, Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen, got 14 and 11 years respectively on charges of assault, kidnapping and attempted murder.

They had forced the victim, Victor Mlothshwa, into a coffin and threatened to set it alight as Mlothshwa begged for his life.

Mobile phone footage of the incident went viral in South Africa, where 23 years after the end of apartheid racial divisions still run deep.

Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson, the two men who convicted of assaulting farm worker Victor Mlotshwa and shoving him into a coffin, were on Friday sentenced to 11 and 14 years imprisonment respectively in the Middelburg High Court sitting in Mpumalanga.

Judge Sheila Mphahlele sentenced Oosthuizen to 16 years imprisonment, five of which would be suspended for eight years. This means Oosthuizen was sentenced to an effective 11 years in prison.

She imposed a 19 year sentence on Jackson, five of which were suspended for eight years. Jackson was effectively sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The duo were also convicted of assaulting another farm worker, Dalton Sithole.

“The most appalling thing for the accused was to put a living person inside a coffin,” said Mphahlele before handing down the sentences.

“The conduct of the accused was mostly dehumanizing and disgusting. The pain and trauma the complainant [Mlotshwa] was subjected to can only be imagined. The evidence shows that the conduct of the accused outweighs their mitigating factors.”

Oosthuizen and Jackson were arrested late last year after a video of Mlotshwa being forced into the coffin went viral on social and other media platforms.

Advocate Wayne Gibbs defended Oosthuizen while Jackson was represented by advocate Org Basson during the trial and sentencing proceedings.

Dozens of people, including members of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), sang and danced outside the court long before the formal court proceedings began on Friday morning.

A woman clad in ANC and sangoma (traditional healer) regalia also threw bones on a traditional carpet outside the court and performed what appeared to be a ritual.

During the same time, a group of about 10 farmers held hands and prayed next to the crowd of ANC members.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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