JOHANNESBURG: Two white South African farmers on Monday (Jul 31) pleaded not guilty to all charges after an online video allegedly showed them pushing a black man into a coffin and threatening to burn him alive.
Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson, both 28, stood trial on charges of kidnap, assault and attempted murder over the incident last year at a farm near Middelburg in the eastern province of Mpumalanga.
They were arrested after the video, apparently shot on a mobile phone by one of them, spread rapidly on the Internet.
The 20-second clip showed an assailant shoving 27-year-old labourer Victor Mlotshwa, who was clearly in distress, into the wooden coffin and trying to force down the lid.
"Come, come. We want to throw the petrol on," said one of the men on the video, speaking Afrikaans. They also threatened to put a snake in the coffin.
The video triggered outrage over continuing racism and racially motivated violence in South Africa.
Activists from political parties, including the ruling African National Congress and the main opposition Democratic Alliance, rallied outside the court and packed the court benches in the small farming town of Delmas.
The two accused told the court on Monday that they caught Mlotshwa with stolen goods on private property and wanted to scare him to prevent further problems, the New24 news website said.
Mlotshwa, who was in court, has previously said he was walking to the town of Middelburg and had used a short cut when two men spotted him, tied him up with cables, beat him and forced him into the coffin.
South Africa remains beset by deep-rooted racial inequality 23 years after the end of white-minority apartheid rule.
Cases of racism have erupted regularly on social media in recent years.
A South African estate agent was last year fined for labelling blacks as monkeys littering the beaches in a Facebook post.