30 October 2019. The 2019 18th Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards drew more than 1,000 entries from across the country. This year’s theme, ‘Connect the Dots’, pays tribute to intrepid and fine journalism that has taken up the challenge to reflect on issues that expose flaws in, and supports, South Africa’s democracy.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group says: “Once again the entries for the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards have been exceptional. Vodacom is proud to play a role in supporting press freedom in South Africa through the continued sponsorship of these prestigious awards. We are deeply grateful to the judges for their time and congratulate the winners from the Eastern Cape.”
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “The judging panel, with three new members in Mapi Mhlangu, Franz Kruger and Jermaine Craig, were impressed with the calibre of the entries, once again. It showed us that journalists are doing their bit to enhance our democracy through their reporting and investigations, despite tough economic times which are impacting on the media industry. We congratulate all the regional winners, who are all worthy winners, and wish them luck as they prepare to contest for the national awards.”
The 12 categories journalists were invited to enter are:
Investigative journalism is a key driver in any democratic society. Through the efforts of investigative journalists, ordinary people are informed of the excesses of those with influence and power, irrespective of who is in power. In a province such as the Eastern Cape, the efforts of investigative journalists often spur officialdom into action. Our winner in this category determinedly and thoroughly investigated conditions at the province’s hospitals, even secretly smuggling himself inside the casualty ward of one hospital. In response to his reporting, the MEC for Health rushed to one of the hospitals to address the crisis. For his articles on Frere Hospital’s beds of horror, our winner is Malibongwe Dayimane of the Daily Dispatch.
“Old habits die hard,” goes the idiomatic expression seeking to explain why people find it difficult to abandon habits they formed in their early lives. But there is nothing light-hearted about the expression when even people you normally regard as civilised and sophisticated forego their educational training and adopt habits of old that lead to killing innocent people. A barbaric example is the killing of primarily the elderly who have been pointed out and accused of practicing witchcraft, something that is patently difficult to prove or disprove. Often the grounds of the accusation are simply jealousy, yet in rural areas the elderly, especially women, literally live on borrowed time because of fear of being arbitrarily accused of witchcraft and condemned by their community to certain death. For his sterling work reporting on the fear and plight of elderly rural women who are crying out for help to stop this inhuman behaviour still prevalent in 21st century and in democratic South Africa, the winner of the Features/Lifestyle category for the Eastern Cape is Nkululeko Nyembezi of the SABC.
Our winner in this category managed to unmask a syndicate of unscrupulous scammers who operate in the Eastern Cape. A series of well-researched articles lifted the lid on an elaborate ATM scam targeting tourists and endangering the province’s developing tourism industry. This work led to the arrest of a number of criminals. For The Great Eastern Cape ATM Scam, the winner in this category is Malibongwe Dayimani of the Daily Dispatch.
The judges received an interesting range of entries and would like to commend Michael Kimberley of The Herald for his insightful reporting on the effects of the harbour go-slow and Iviwe Poti and Clinton Cerf from SABC News for a piece on why the poverty-stricken will risk building shacks in danger zones.
Experts believe that the most important level of government is local government because it impacts directly on the lives of so many people. Politicians and public servants at municipal level have to deliver basic services without which people cannot survive. Yet it is at this level where there has been significant corruption over the past few decades. Our winning entry is about corruption involving a councillor and her husband, who sold houses to residents, houses that did not belong to them. And they often sold the same house to more than one person. The winning reporter followed the story, hounding the councillor and her husband and leading to investigations by the police, the public protector, the ANC, and the council. Our winner is Mamela Ndamase of the Daily Dispatch for Councillor Accused of Dodgy Home Sales.
Sustainability is one of today’s key media issues as we confront climate change and biodiversity losses. These worsen socio-economic challenges for the many people who struggle to survive poverty from day to day. The judges commended a report depicting one solution for these dilemmas, a piece on the Black Rhino Project community conservation partnership for Isolezwe lesiXhosa by Sithandiwe Velaphi.
However, the winner for the region showed a much darker side of this fight for survival – people so poor that they compete with wild animals to scavenge food for their families from a rubbish dump. It also showed the power of good journalism, prompting the Provincial Government to establish a subsistence project. The Eastern Cape/East London winning entry is a heartfelt piece from Nkululeko Nyembezi of SABC Radio, Mthatha.
Multiple platforms can be leveraged to pursue, contextualise, and pull together ongoing written and visual coverage. Service-delivery protests have become a regular feature of news coverage in South Africa, but the limitations of general news coverage mean we rarely see specific protests covered in a sustained way. For an excellent example of ongoing reporting across print, online, and social media of one of the longest-running protests, the Eastern Cape winner is Malibongwe Dayimani of the Daily Dispatch for The Siege of Stutterheim.
Opinion pages or programmes are often dominated by “expert voices” with broader public opinion confined to vernacular public radio stations. National elections provide an opportunity to put citizens at the front of the story of democracy, helping them consider public action in ways that are not reducible to economic power or social status. Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed public-service reporting fulfilling this important civic aim. The winning entry embarked on a project to source opinions from the public by profiling over 200 South Africans. For the series called Democracy Gauge, our winners are Olwethu Matsipane, Krivani Pillay, and Deidre Uren of SABC News.
Shocking courtroom stories have become the norm in South Africa, making it more difficult to avoid depicting the courtroom players in frames that have not become timeworn and flat. The truth is difficult to depict in a moment captured in time, but this photograph bursts with contradictions that depict the struggle between perceptions of a monster or a man of God. This photograph of Timothy Omotoso during the first phase of an intense rape trial shows him as a man in deep thought or deep prayer, depending on your perception. For his series of pictures entitled Man van God nie Tronk toe nie, the winner is Lulama Zenzile of Die Son and Netwerk24.
The annual Iron Man competition is a gruelling, high-octane triathlon event. This year’s 15th edition saw tragedy, with the deaths during the competition of two competitors in the swim leg of the race. For her comprehensive coverage of the event, including the tragic breaking news, our Eastern Cape sport winner is the SABC’s Kim Daniels, who was supported by the camera work of Nathasha Magquntulu.
Live reporting/breaking news
The way in which news is broken or reported has been transformed in the era of innovative and online platforms. Journalists in this category are continually challenged to be first with the story and also to be correct at all times despite deadline pressures, various obstacles in the field, and demands across platforms. The judges chose to split the award between two well-crafted entries – Jayed-Leigh Paulse of the SABC for her body of work on the Timothy Omotoso trial; and Iviwe Poti of the SABC for Eastern Cape N2 Fires. Contributors were Blom Gcobani, Silengile Mcebisi and Natasha Magquntulu for Jayed-Leigh; and Blom Gcobani and Mcebisi Silengile for Iviwe.
A seemingly straightforward story about the fake sale of a pedigreed puppy led to tracing a widespread scam involving numerous websites. Data from these websites was used to unravel the scam and analyse exactly how it worked, with the findings presented in a digestible and entertaining format, including apt graphics. For showing the extent to which data journalism goes beyond reporting on statistics to make reporting on an investigation both more in depth and more accessible, Kathryn Cleary of Grocott’s Mail wins for Who’s Your Daddy? The pedigree of a pet scam.
Young Journalist of the Year Award
The Young Journalist Award emphasises VJOY’s commitment to furthering the career of a dynamic young journalist in South Africa. At stake is the chance of a lifetime for the lucky young Journalist winner to accelerate his or her professional and personal development through an all-expenses-paid trip to follow cutting-edge training overseas, both at the renowned Thomson Foundation and in a newsroom context. This award recognises the efforts of the rising stars in newsrooms across the regions. Entrants must have worked in journalism for three years or less and should be demonstrating great potential. They should be able to act as ambassadors for South Africa and South African journalism when they are abroad. Entrants had to submit a body of outstanding work together with a strong motivation showing commitment to the vocation of news well above the norm – this motivation is a critical component of the judging process. All shortlisted entrants are entered in a further round where they will outline their achievements and their aspirations to the judging panel. Regional nominees will automatically become finalists for the national Young Journalist Award and the career-enhancing prize. The Eastern Cape nominee is Naziziphiwo Buso of The Herald.
Each regional category winner takes home R5,000, while national category winners will take home R10,000. The overall Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award winner will receive R100,000. In the event of joint winners, the prize money will be shared.
The winner of the Young Journalist Award, one of the competition’s most prestigious accolades, will win an all-expenses paid overseas trip to work in an international newsroom, including a visit to the renowned Thomson Foundation.