Victor Mlotshwa lost his mother’s R2,000 in cash when he was allegedly assaulted and shoved into a coffin by two men on a farm near Middelburg in Mpumalanga last year, his mother Lonea Mlotshwa told the Middelburg High Court on Monday.
Lonea made the claim while testifying during the trial of Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson, who were arrested and charged for the assault which made news headlines after a video showing Victor Mlotshwa being forced into a coffin surfaced.
Lonea said the incident happened while Victor was hitch-hiking on the road towards Middelburg, where she had sent him to buy her grocery items that she was usually sold from her home to the public.
“I gave him [Victor] R2,000 in cash and a list of the things I wanted him to buy for me,” Lonea told the court.
“He came back later in the afternoon and appeared not to be happy. One of his eyes was red as if he had been punched with a fist. He had a bruise on the side of one eye. I asked him where the grocery items were and whether there were people who had robbed him, but he gestured with his hand and indicated that he would not answer my question, and said he wanted to sleep. The money and the grocery list that I gave him was missing.”
Oosthuizen and Jackson were arrested late last year and 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.
The Middelburg Magistrate’s Court granted each of the accused R1,000 bail on July 14 after their previous bail application was denied by the same court in December last year.
Lonea told the court on Monday that Victor told her about the incident later in the day when he woke up. She broke down during proceedings after State prosecutor Robert Molokoane asked her to tell the court how she felt when she first heard that her son was assaulted and shoved into a coffin.
Judge Sheila Mphahlele adjourned the court for 10 minutes in order to allow Lonea to compose herself. When the proceedings resumed, Lonea told of how devastated she was about the incident.
“I was so upset I could not even speak. I asked myself what could have happened to my son if God did not help him to get out of that coffin,” Lonea testified.
Victor also had a red mark on the chest and scratch marks on both legs, and his clothes were dirty as if he had been rolled on the ground when he got back home, added Lonea.
Judge Sheila Mphahlele expressed concern at the performance of court interpreter, Mokgethwa Sekete, saying his interpretation from English to Sesotho of some of the questions posed by defence lawyer advocate Wayne Gibbs while he was cross-examining Lonea on Monday were not in line with what Gibbs had actually asked.
She adjourned the court again and held a meeting with Sekete, defence lawyers of both the accused and Molokoane in one of the court building’s offices.
The proceedings resumed a short while later with Sekete still performing his duty as the interpreter. Gibbs questioned the veracity of Lonea’s testimony, saying there were discrepancies between what she said while testifying in court earlier on Monday and the statement she had made to the police last year about the injuries sustained by Victor.
Gibbs put it to Lonea that Victor showed a mark on his right thigh to the medical doctor late last year, adding he did not mention the scratches on his legs to the same doctor. Lonea responded by saying he did not see the mark on Victor’s thigh because he did not undress him.
“The problem is that your statement contradicts what you are telling this court,” said Gibbs.
The courtroom was packed and included members of the African National Congress, Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters, as well as Mpumalanga Public Works MEC Sasekani Manzini.
The trial is expected to be concluded on August 10.