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Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards: winners announced for KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga

Thursday, 7 November 2019

7 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 KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.”

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:

  1. Investigative
  2. Opinion
  3. Lifestyle
  4. Photography
  5. Sport
  6. Economics
  7. Politics
  8. CSI
  9. Live reporting/ breaking news
  10. Data Journalism
  11. Multi-platform
  12. Young Journalist of the Year Award

Winners by category are:

No winner.

The best opinion pieces are ones where the writer is able to integrate personal experiences to make points about social or political issues. These are also the most difficult pieces to write. What if somebody whom you considered to be a friend was suddenly exposed and convicted as a racist? This happened to the winning opinion writer, who reflected on the many questions raised by a relationship with Penny Sparrow. Even after Sparrow’s death, our writer still has not worked out how she felt about the person whom she knew as a friend, but who became known as a racist. For her very personal and touching account of this dilemma, our winner is Nivashni Nair of Times Select for Penny for my Thoughts.

This was a highly contested category given the need for the feature and lifestyle content to go beyond the reporting and to introduce elements of innovative and descriptive storytelling. The content in this category cut across issues such as health, land, entertainment, social deprivation, cultural and social practices, and poverty. The judges would like to commend Greg Arde of New Frame for his piece on Public Toilets Shame, the plight of public transport commuters forced to use inadequate public toilets. The judges awarded the winner in this category for a body of work that included coverage on social-media platforms and on television. The winner isDasen Thathia of eNCA for SA’s Rescue Mission in Mozambique and The Spotlight on Ukuthwala. Contributors were Susanna Holmes, Francois Grobler and Nkanyiso Mdlalose.

One of the roles of a photographer is to capture a specific moment in time that will enlighten, enrich, or even enrage the audience. The judges commended two pictures in this region. One showed how photographers often strive to create quality news images even on the most straightforward assignments. With Power Surge,Leon Lestrade of African News Agency pushed the creativity of his image of South African swimmer Ayrton Sweeney at the National Short Course Championships. The other commended photographer, Doctor Ngcobo of the Daily News, kept working in the middle of a UKZN student protest to tell the story as it happened. However, the winning photographer combined sharp reactions with fearless capture in the middle of violent actions, keeping the lens steady to capture the intensity of clashes. Adding to South Africa’s long-standing iconography of protests is the regional winner Motshwari Mofokeng of African News Agency for the Mercury for his image DUT Students Protest over Empty Stomachs.

Like the athletes they cover, sports journalists have had to sharpen their skills and add a few more strings to their bows as the profession has evolved. These days covering a sporting tour involves far more than filing an overnight package for print or television. Podcasts, online blogs and vlogs and social-media coverage are now the norm, as fans demand to be given ever more behind-the-scenes access. For his polished multimedia coverage of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, our regional winner in the sports category is Myron Naicker of East Coast Radio.

A hijacking in a driveway in which an innocent man was killed led to a story that grabbed not only the attention of people all over the country, but also every single life insurance company. The widow’s shock and grief was compounded when her late husband’s life insurance company refused to pay out on his policy, citing an unrelated pre-existing condition. The winner chronicled the family’s dismay and later distress when even the Ombudsman for Long Term Insurance failed to support their appeal. The story ultimately weighed a legal technicality against the demands of natural justice. For tenacity, insight, and clear reportage of a complex issue, the regional winner is Tanya Waterworth of The Independent on Saturday for The Widow Versus Momentum.

There is a seSotho idiom, when loosely translated, says that “any gift or help given to you in the dark must be acknowledged in daylight”. The sages of the past meant that something given under cover of darkness has a potential to be fatal to the one receiving such help. The expression is meant to warn unsuspecting persons to be wary of assistance provided without solicitation. Its truth was starkly demonstrated by the shenanigans of eThekwini municipal officials who gossiped freely about their colleagues, including making serious racist statements. Recordings of these conversations involving senior municipal officials were the basis of articles that led to serious consequences. Our winner in the politics category is Chris Ndaliso of the Daily News for Recordings Expose City Dirty Tricks.

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 – but what is the solution when two major economic sectors compete to use land in such different ways that no mutually beneficial solution seems possible? The winning piece in this region takes an in-depth look at the arguments on either side and assesses what the different solutions could mean for the future of our natural heritage. The regional winner is Hluhluwe Imfolozi Threatened by Mining from Julie Laurenz of Nguni TV for SABC 2’s 50/50. Contributors were Duncan Grant and Hermein Roelvert.

Live reporting/breaking news
This highly contested category expects good entrants to be quick off the mark in getting to the big breaking stories. However, one journalist stood head and shoulders above the rest, breaking four stories on one day: a taxi accident which killed three teenaged girls, a community protest over reckless taxi drivers, a mass murder in Montclair, and an assault charge against singer Babes Wodumo. In between all the live reporting, there were packages filed as well as social-media reporting. Added to the body of work was up-to-the-minute reporting on the floods that ravaged KwaZulu-Natal. For giving a face to the human tragedy, treating victims with sensitivity, taking his audiences to the scene, working around the clock and handling all breaking stories with a passion for ethical reporting, factual, and accurate reporting, our winner is Dasen Thathiah of eNCA. Contributors were Nkanyiso Mdlalose and Francois Grobler.

Data Journalism
No winner.

Multi-platform journalism is an ideal approach to covering stories that need ongoing reporting of detail, visual coverage of unfolding events, and prompt use of social media to keep the public informed. An excellent combination of these approaches resulted in rapid-turnaround reporting and broad-reaching coverage of devastating floods in Durban. The winner is a body of work entitled Durban’s Easter rain of terror submitted by Navashni Nair, Orrin Singh, Lwandile Bhengu, and Suthentira Govender from the Sunday Times and TimesLive.

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 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 nominee is Andiswa Matikinca of Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism.

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