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Minister Masutha welcomes the “Coffin Assault” Case Judgement

27 October 2017

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Advocate Michael Masutha, MP welcomes the judgement meted out to Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson in the Middelburg High Court today. Oosthuizen was sentenced to a total of 11 years imprisonment while Jackson was sentenced to 14 years. The two were found guilty for assault of Victor Mlotshwa with intent to cause grievous bodily harm‚ attempted murder‚ intimidation and kidnapping.

Minister Masutha commends the National Prosecuting Authority and the investigating team for their efforts in securing a successful conviction and reiterates its commitment to fighting racially motivated crimes and other hate crimes that have befallen our communities. “We believe that this strong sentence will deter would be hate crime perpetrators in our society. We also find it defeating and disappointing that we are dealing with a case of this nature in a year where we celebrate the life of Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo,” said Minister Masutha.

The crime committed against Mr Victor Mlotshwa and the sentence imposed by the court highlights the need for the strengthening of the law with regard to crimes of hate speech and hate crimes in South Africa.  No crime which has its basis in racism should go unpunished.

In this regard, the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which has undergone a robust public participation process, is now ready for submission to Cabinet to approve the Bill for introduction into Parliament.

Importantly, the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which criminalises hate crimes and hate speech, provides that where a hate crime is committed and such crime does not fall within the ambit of the minimum sentence provisions currently in existence, then the court must consider the fact that the person was convicted of a hate crime as an aggravating factor.

This will attract a harsher penalty if a crime is classified as a hate crime. The crime of hate speech will attract a sentence of a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 years in the case of a first conviction or a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years in the case of a subsequent conviction. 

The penalties for hate crimes are left to the discretion of the court because base crimes constituting hate crimes can vary from common assault to murder and there is a huge body of case law on the penalties for base crimes in question.  Hate speech differs in this regard because it will be a new offence with no precedents in our law. 

The sentence imposed by the court in the Mlotshwa matter indicates the seriousness with which our courts regard such offences by meting out a sentence that befits the crime.

The sentence will assist the Department in consolidating the efforts to build a society which respects human dignity and equality as envisaged by the founding principles of our Constitution. The Minister is committed to uprooting this scourge from society and to put an end to the vicious incidents of intolerance and racism.

Issued by the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services.

Enquiries: Mthunzi Mhaga
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services