Two white South African farmers who forced a black man into a coffin and threatened to burn him alive have been jailed.

Willem Oosthuizen, 29, and Theo Jackson, 30, were both convicted of attempted murder and kidnap after a video showing them forcing labourer Victor Mlotshwa into a wooden coffin went viral online.

They were sentenced to 11 and 14 years imprisonment respectively at the High Court sitting in Middelburg, 165km (100 miles) east of Johannesburg, on Friday (27 October).

They rested their heads on the bench after their sentencing while female family members wept in the public gallery, AFP reported.

Judge Segopotje Mphahlele described the pair's conduct as appalling and dehumanising, saying they had only shown remorse during mitigation.

She said her sentence was influenced by the fact that the men appeared to have been driven by racism when they targeted Mlotshwa, adding that their behaviour had "raised and fuelled racial tension" in South Africa.

The video of the August 2016 incident sparked anti-racism protests in South Africa, which continues to suffer deep racial tensions more than 20 years years after the end of apartheid.

The farmers can be seen in the mobile phone clip trying to pack Mlotshwa, 27, into the wooden box and force down the lid as he whimpered in fear.

As well as threatening to pour petrol on him and set him alight, the two farmers also threatened to put a snake inside the coffin.

The incident took place near Komati power station in Mpumpalanga.

Mlotshwa said he had been walking to the town of Middelburg to buy provisions for his mother and had decided to use a shortcut when the two men pounced on him.

But the defendants told a different story. They claimed they had caught Mlotshwa with stolen goods on private property and wanted to scare him to prevent further thefts.

The pair, who are foremen on different farms in Middelburg, said after detaining Mlotshwa, they told him they would take him to the police.

Mlotshwa then threatened to burn down the farm's crops and murder the wives and children of the accused, their defence told the court.

Oosthuizen and Jackson admitted it was then that they decided to take the labourer to a remote area in order to "convince" him not to go through with his alleged threats. They forced him into a coffin as a scare tactic, they added.

The duo were convicted of grievous bodily harm, kidnapping, attempted murder, intimidation and defeating the ends of justice.

Both men intend to appeal the sentence.

Willem Oosthuizen,
Theo Jackson, left, and Willem Oosthuizen appear in court after an online video emerged showing them pushing a black man into a coffin and threatening to burn him alive Reuters