Jean-Jacques Cornish

Sentencing for two white farmers who forced a black man into a coffin

Tensions are high in the farming town of Middelburg where two white men are facing sentence today (Friday) for forcing  a black man into a coffin and threatening to douse him with petrol and burn him alive.

Angry crowd have demonstrated throughout the trial where farmers Willem Ooshuizen and Theo Jackson were found guilty of  attempted murder, kidnapping and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

In court last Monday for the start of sentencing proceedings, Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson were contrite.

Until then they had insisted they’d simply tried to frighten their victim Victor Mlotshwa because he had stolen copper wire from them.

The wire was never produced.

The prosecution alleged that the actions of the two white men had been fueled by racism.

Oosthuizen and Jackson pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Crowds outside the court were angry that Judge Shela Mphahlele granted the two men bail for most of the ten-month trial.

She said the men had attended court regularly and on time during the trial.

She also said the community should trust that the wheels of justice were turning since they were convicted and that they should trust the courts to mete out justice during sentencing proceedings.

Mlotshwa says this incident has changed his life for the worst and he will not be satisfied with a jail sentence of less than 15 years for the guilty farmers.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.