06 November, 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 Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Limpopo."
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:
Winners by category are:
In the highly contested category of investigative journalism, it was not easy to choose a winner in this region. But one entry made it to the top of all the judges' lists. It is a tragic, but also heroic story from the Northern Cape. The very professional and empathetic way in which the journalist approached and presented the details of the repeated rape by three men of a 12-year-old girl in Pampierstad makes the SABC's Neria Hlakotsa a worthy winner. Contributors were Thapelo Kgomotshwane and Jabulani oaAfrika
The World Bank names South Africa as the most unequal country in the world, with more than 40% of its citizens living below the national poverty line. This figure is increasing all the time and the unemployment rate has exceeded 27,7%. In a series of striking images depicting harsh conditions, our winning photographer shows that poverty does not know race. Similarly, evictions do not discriminate on a racial basis, as shown in this well-crafted photo essay about white families who live in broken-down huts, ruined caravans and even in drains on a Bloemfontein smallholding, and who are about to ejected and rendered homeless. For his feature, Ons Traai ons Koppe bo Water Hou, the winner is Mlungisi Louw of Volksblad.
Is pole-dancing even a sport? That's the question judges asked when reviewing the submission of a pole-dancing picture feature in the sport category. It was established that indeed pole-dancing is an internationally recognised sport. And with that out of the way, for his eye-catching and high-quality imagery in his Volksblad feature, our winner is Andre Damons.
Problems in the food production chain have a direct impact on the South African consumer as they often lead to issues such as food price inflation. The continuing drought in large parts of the country has created a crisis that has a devastating effect on farm productivity and on farmers' businesses as well as ultimately on consumers. For a body of work on the effects of drought and attempts to survive it that was thoroughly researched and empathetically presented, the regional award goes to Sabrina Dean of Farmer's Weekly.
The political space in South Africa is often dominated by politicians and spin doctors, while the voices of ordinary people are missing. Many attempts have been made to address this gap, but the results are usually pedestrian. The judges awarded this prize to a journalist who went to a remote part of the country and put together a show that created real dialogue between politicians and the youth, with energy, pace and some innovative techniques. The award goes to SABC's Expressions for the show from De Aar. Our winner is Mziyanda Mbedla.
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 in impoverished and far-flung rural areas. In this region, the judges were impressed at the winner's commitment to highlighting breaches of basic service delivery in the Northern Cape. For a body of work emphasising the challenges of isolation, dire infrastructure and endangered water supply, the regional winner is Keith Sayster for SABC Fokus. Contributors were Buyani Mthembu, Mpho Masela and Tumelo Sethlabstsi.
Live reporting/breaking news
This category recognises the versatility of skills and approaches needed by journalists to supply content for a wide range of platforms and outlets in the era of social media and 24-hour news platforms. The judges were impressed by the outstanding coverage of a tragic murder in a small Free State town and of how a rape victim, an intern doctor in the Pelonomi hospital, fought back against her attacker. The award goes to Andre Damons of Netwerk 24 and Volksblad for Vermoorde egpaar van Dealeville Goeie Mense and Pelonomi Doktor Fnuik Verkragter deur Tong af te Byt.
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-expense 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 Free State/Northern Cape/Northwest and Limpopo nominee is Martinette Hay of Vrystaat Nuus.