NEWS & ANALYSIS

Coffin case: Beware racialized justice – Pieter Groenewald

FF Plus leader says the sentences handed down are disproportionate and inconsistent

Administration of justice in South Africa must not add to racial polarisation with double standards

The FF Plus condemns all forms of racism and opposes it strongly, but is also of the opinion that the sentences handed down to the two men in the so-called ‘coffin case’ are excessive and an example of double standards that can lead to further racial polarisation in South Africa, says Dr Pieter Groenewald, leader of the FF Plus.

Dr Groenewald says that the two men, Theo Jackson (effective sentence of 14 years imprisonment) and Willem Oosthuizen (effective sentence of 11 years), were obviously found guilty and were convicted by the community long before today’s sentencing by the court.

According to Dr Groenewald, there are numerous court cases that clearly demonstrate the double standards when it comes to the imposition of punishment.

“A few years ago, there was a case in which a white schoolgirl, Bernadine Kruger, died after being run down by a black taxi driver. The court found that the taxi driver had ‘deliberately’ tailed her across two lanes before driving her off her scooter. Initially the charge was negligence and reckless driving.

“Only after the FF Plus intervened and made representations, the charge was changed to murder. Magistrate Edmund Patterson admitted in passing the verdict that it was clearly intended murder and that it was “not a mistake and not negligence”. The sentence was but eight years.

“In the recent KFC case, three of the five white accused were only granted bail after nearly ten weeks and they are being charged with attempted murder while there are various versions of what really transpired and also who instigated the row.

“In another incident in August this year, a lady called Carien van Staden was shot in the chest by a black soldier who nearly ran her and her boyfriend off their motorbike. She was shot when she confronted the man. Even though her boyfriend made a video recording of the incident, the accused was not even arrested.

“In the coffin case, nobody died or was even seriously injured and the impression that is created is that the court has imposed these excessive penalties to send out the message that white-on-black racism will be severely punished. The problem with racism, however, is that it goes both ways and there is something like black-on-white racism as well.

“Racial polarisation in South Africa is becoming more and more prominent and institutions that form part of the criminal justice system, like the police and the judicature, must set an example of impartiality.

“Unfortunately, the sentence in the coffin case proves to be the opposite and if it is not rectified in an appeal, it will only lead to more polarisation, which will seriously damage racial relations in the country,” says Dr Groenewald. 

Statement issued by Dr. Pieter Groenewald, FF Plus leader, 27 October 2017