MIDDELBURG, August 11– Theo Martins Jackson, one of the two men accused of assaulting and shoving farmworker Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin on a farm near Middelburg in Mpumalanga late last year, burnt the coffin after the incident, the Middelburg High Court heard on Thursday.
Jackson testified during the trial that he was instructed by his former employer, Johannes de Beer, to burn the coffin. He was working on a farm co-owned by De Beer and his father at the time.
“He [De Beer] phoned and asked me what I did while he was away and I told him I did nothing,” said Jackson.
“He sent me a short video and asked me what was in it, and told me to get rid of the coffin. He said I must get rid of it because there was a problem about it. I took the coffin to the ditch where the incident happened and burnt it.”
Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen were arrested late last year and they face charges including attempted murder, kidnapping, intimidation and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. The incident was captured on a video that went viral on social media.
Jackson told the court that he made a video of the incident on his cell phone, but his wife told him to delete the video immediately after she saw it so their children would not see. He said they often played with his phone.
He and Oosthuizen placed Mlotshwa into a coffin in order to scare him after he allegedly threatened to kill their wives and children, Jackson said.
The two men accused of assaulting and shoving farmworker Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin have racked up about R200,000 in legal fees during their trial, but they would not pay a cent of it as they were represented free of charge, their attorney said on Thursday.
Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson were represented by advocates Wayne Gibbs and Org Basson since the on-going trial started in the Delmas High Court on Monday.
Speaking to African News Agency (ANA) at the Middelburg High Court, attorney Marius Coertze said he appointed the two advocates because he wanted to help Oosthuizen and Jackson as they were currently unemployed.
He said both Oosthuizen and Jackson were also defrauded of about R50,000 by a certain man who masqueraded as an attorney and promised to defend them after they were arrested late last year.
“When we took over this case in March, from the previous lawyers, there were promises to collect money from donors or people who wanted to support the accused. But that did not happen,” said Coertze.
“That [fraud] was a huge blow for them. This case is quite unique and it is the first of its kind. If we don’t represent them, they will have no lawyers. The emotions are high out there because of this case. I have handled many other unique and difficult cases before, but this one is unique because of the coffin.”
Oosthuizen and Jackson were arrested late last year, and they face charges including attempted murder, kidnapping, intimidation and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. The incident happened on a farm near Middelburg and it was captured on a video that went viral on social media.
Coertze, who runs a private law practice in Pretoria, said he normally represented people free of charge twice a year.
The trial was expected to be concluded on Thursday, but it would still continue on Friday, added Coertze.