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S.African shoved into coffin tells court of petrol taunt

A black South African labourer forced into a coffin allegedly by two white farmers said Wednesday that he pleaded for his life as they threatened to pour petrol over him.

Victor Mlotshwa gave evidence at the trial of Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson, who face kidnap, assault and attempted murder charges over the incident.

A 20-second video clip appears to show the accused forcing Mlotshwa, 27, into the wooden coffin and trying to push down the lid last year in the eastern province of Mpumalanga.

The men were arrested after the footage, which was apparently shot on a mobile phone by one of the assailants, spread rapidly on the internet.

“One of them said they should pour petrol into the coffin,” Mlotshwa told the court, according to the News24 website.

“I was so scared, shivering and crying. I was under the impression that they wanted to kill me.

“I was pleading with them. It was only my one hand which was outside the coffin.”

The video triggered outrage in South Africa where racism and racially motivated violence remain major social problems.

Activists from political parties, including the ruling African National Congress and the main opposition Democratic Alliance, have rallied outside court and packed its public benches during the trial.

Local media said Mlotshwa broke down in tears during his evidence and residents hurled abuse at the accused before the court was adjourned.

The two farmers told the court on Monday that they caught Mlotshwa with stolen goods on private property and wanted to scare him.

Mlotshwa said he was going to the town of Middelburg to buy provisions for his mother when he was attacked.

“I tried to run away,” he said. “Without saying anything to me, the men got out of the vehicles and just pumped me with their fists.”

South Africa is beset by deep-rooted racial inequality 23 years after the end of white-minority rule. Cases of racism have erupted regularly on social media in recent years.

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