Middelburg farm foremen Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson, who were sentenced to long prison terms for forcing a man into a coffin and threatening to set him alight, had to be re-sentenced yesterday because of an error in their original sentences.
Judge Segopotje Mphahlele last month sentenced Oosthuizen, 29, to 16 years’ imprisonment, five years of which were suspended for eight years and Jackson to 19 years’ imprisonment, five of which were suspended for eight years.
Because the Criminal procedure Act, however, does not allow a prison term to be suspended for more than five years, the judge yesterday altered the pair’s sentences to reflect that a portion of their sentences would now only be suspended for five years.
Oosthuizen’s attorney, Marius Coertze said the sentences, which were handed down in the High Court in Pretoria yesterday, had no effect on Oosthuizen’s effective sentence of 11 years and Jackson’s effective sentence of 14 years.
“She initially suspended the sentences for eight years. That was an error, and she corrected it today, but we are of the view that it’s an irregularity, as she had already made her final judgment and you cannot change the judgment you gave previously in this way.
“So we will also take this irregularity on appeal as part of our request for leave to appeal from the highest court of appeal in Bloemfontein,” he said.
He said papers in their applications for leave to appeal would be signed early next week, but it could take the better part of a year for their applications to come before the SCA.
The two, who were arrested after a video they made while forcing Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin and threatening to set him alight or to put a snake into the coffin went viral.
They were convicted of attempting to murder, kidnapping and intimidating Mlotshwa, and were also convicted of assaulting Mlotshwa and another man, Delton Sithole, in separate incidents on the same day in August 2016.
Jackson was also convicted on a charge of defeating the ends of justice by burning the coffin after the incident.
The pair claimed they only wanted to frighten Mlotshwa for stealing copper cables, but Mlotshwa said he was attacked for no reason while waiting to hitchhike to town.
Judge Mphahlele described their crimes as appalling, disgusting and dehumanising, and said they had no remorse for what they did.
Coertze yesterday confirmed the two accused were still being detained in the hospital section at Witbank Correctional Services while waiting for a correction in the warrants that were signed for their incarceration.
“Prison authorities have let us know that the warrants were apparently signed for 23 and 27 years instead of 11 and 14 years. It makes a difference if they are incarcerated for more than 20 years because then they go to a different section [where persons serving life imprisonment for amongst others murders and robberies are kept] in the prison.
“I assume the warrants will be corrected within the next week or so, because they are aware of the problem,” he said.