Social workers intimidated by coffin assault case
Defence lawyers struggled to find social workers to testify in the case of two farm workers convicted of trying to kill Victor Mlotshwa by placing him in a coffin and threatening to burn him alive.
Speaking in the High Court sitting in Middelburg on Monday‚ Org Basson‚ for Theo Jackson‚ said the social worker they eventually found was the sixth one that they had approached.
“That is the gravity of the situation‚” said Basson‚ adding that it was not easy to be criticised for things they mentioned in court.
Wayne Gibbs‚ for Willem Oosthuizen‚ told the court that the social worker would not testify unless the court was cleared.
“The witness feels intimidated‚” said Gibbs‚ calling on the court to grant them their request.
“This is the only way for us to get the witness to give testimony‚” he said.
At least one of the men in the defence team claimed that they had been intimidated by those attending the court proceedings in the past.
Judge Segopotje Mphahlele ruled that the social worker would testify but her picture cannot be circulated in the media. Only a voice recording may be used. The social worker will be one of three to testify in the sentencing proceedings.
Victor Mlotshwa and a commissioner from the Human Rights Commission are also expected to take the stand.
Jackson and Oosthuizen were arrested after a video they took of themselves was widely distributed on social media. The footage showed them forcing Mlotshwa into a coffin.
Mlotshwa had testified that the two men had suddenly attacked him as he waited to hitch hike.
The two‚ however‚ said they had found Mlotshwa in possession of suspected stolen copper cables.
The cables were never found.
The case continues.