31 October, 2019. The 2019 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 Western 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:
Cape Town Winners by category are:
The best investigative journalists are the ones who follow the money, connecting the dots between sometimes seemingly unrelated events, organisations and people to reveal corruption or wrong-doing. Our winners in this province doggedly followed the trail involving the organisation they were investigating. They persevered with their investigation despite being threatened and despite some media houses being reluctant to carry their stories. They used data journalism and deeds’ searches to link companies and their directors to questionable multi-million-rand Lottery grants. For their series Gaming the Lottery, which appeared in several publications, our winners in the investigative category in the Western Cape are Raymond Joseph and Anton van Zyl.
Too many writers develop an excessive love of their own voice. Effective opinion writing requires hard work, discipline, and a clear sense of the audience. The judges were looking for fresh voices, able to argue their points of view clearly and with strong evidence. In a series of elegantly and simply told columns, the winner made outstanding use of personal experiences to highlight current and perennial issues. With a deft touch, she made a powerful emotional impact on the judges. For her columns on Alzheimer’s and the question of spanking children, our winner is Willemien Brummer of Netwerk24.
There were many exciting and relevant entries received in this category. Overall the judges were impressed with the quality of work across all platforms. In a seven-part series, the reporter took us into the heart of communities ravaged by gang wars and went beyond the shock deployment of the army. The community of Hanover Park’s stories was told “through eyes of a grieving mother; of a hopeful community leader; of the head of the trauma unit at Groote Schuur; of a social worker working with children and of the kids themselves; and of police sources who helped map out who is fighting who in Cape Town’s troubled areas”. For this body of work, the winner is Tammy Petersen of News24 Online.
Violence against women and children have been prominent in the news recently. We would like to believe that the villains that hurt our children are monsters who lurk in dark corners. It is difficult to accept that children, neighbours, and other community members can inflict physical and emotional pain on the most vulnerable in our society. Imagine all of the adversities a little girl of colour living in the township has to overcome. Now imagine that she’s 10, has albinism and is called a “dirty monkey” by residents daily. This beautifully crafted photo essay depicts the life of little Esona Kili who fears that she will be killed for her body parts. For his series of pictures called Shunned for having albinism, the Western Cape winner is Phandulwazi Jikelo of African News Agency for the Cape Times.
Springbok scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies shot onto the South African rugby scene like a beautiful bolt from the blue this year. His moving story, from the streets of the modest community of Kylemore just outside Stellenbosch, to the hallowed halls of Paul Roos, and to starring roles in the Springbok green and gold was one of the stories of the sporting year. For shining a spotlight on the role of Herschel’s 64-year-old primary school teacher and coach, Christo Jephtas, our deserving Western Cape sport winner is Sport 24’s Lloyd Burnard, whose copy was supplemented by an excellent video shot and edited by Aljoscha Kohlstock.
The overall quality of work entered in this category was high, but the judges had no doubt about the regional winner. The dire impact on public finances of years of state capture, the battles to reverse seemingly ingrained financial and governance challenges, and the systemic risks to South Africa’s whole economy were researched in depth and presented in careful and pointed detail by the winner in this category. For a body of work that highlighted the central risk to business and consumers posed by Eskom’s capture, the award goes to Marianne Merten of the Daily Maverick.
Politics is not just about what politicians say and do, it is also about issues that generate concerns for ordinary people. One issue that has generated more heat than most is how our country should redress historic land imbalances. The winner in this category presented a body of work that presented a thorough and well-researched account of one aspect of the issue. The voices of those affected were heard, as well as the detail of how it was done. The winning entry was a body of work dealing with the capture of land reform by a corrupt elite. Our regional winners are Hazel Friedman and Ismail Ridwaan for Bitter Harvest and The Lie of the Land for SABC’s Special Assignment and Hazel Friedman for her articles in the Mail & Guardian, Farm Flipping, The Land of Empty Promises and Corruption Plagues Land Reform.
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 day to day – but, as the regional winner shows, our green spaces can be harnessed to alleviate this in surprising ways. For a piece that depicts how, in a neglected gang-ridden area where bullets frequently fly, a community farm on the grounds of an Ocean View school serves as a physical and psychological refuge, the regional winner is Sustainability at Schools by Nadine Theron and Asanda Javu for eNCA.
Live reporting/breaking news
Crime and violence have become part of the fabric of South African society. The challenge for any journalist reporting on these recurring issues is to combine context with fresh, innovative, and creative angles. The winner in this category is rewarded for an excellent body of work, which included astonishing background on the murder of Cape Town lawyer, Pete Mihalik, the gang-related shooting of a Gift of the Givers’ volunteer, Ameerodien Noordien, and an in-depth analysis of the reasons why Cape Town is regarded as the world’s most dangerous city. The winner is Aron Hyman of the Sunday Times and TimesLive. Philani Nombembe contributed to the first of these stories.
Multi-platform journalism allows for combining multiple types of content for more effective storytelling. However, a story can rise or fall through shortcomings in any one of these. Quality video, photographic, text, and graphic content were all combined in eloquently reporting the plight of farm-dwellers in Bitter Harvest by Sune Payne and Leila Dougan of Daily Maverick.
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 demonstrate 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 Western Cape nominee is Luke Folb of the Weekend Argus.
The overall 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.
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.