South Africa’s top journalists have been eagerly awaiting the regional results of the 2022 Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards. The results were announced today for the KwaZulu-Natal & Mpumalanga Region. Regional category winners receive R5 000, national category winners take home R10 000. The overall Vodacom Journalist of the Year winner receives R100 000. Should there be joint winners, the prize money is shared.
The competition’s judging panel reviewed more than 1,700 entries nationally. This year’s VJOY judging panel consists of convener of the judging panel, Mapi Mhlangu and judges Elna Rossouw, Jermaine Craig, Arthur Goldstuck, Ryland Fisher, Professor Gilbert Motsaathebe, Patricia McCracken, Collin Nxumalo, Jovial Rantao, Advocate Robin Sewlal and Obed Zilwa. Collectively, the media experience of our full judging panel exceeds 300 years.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Vodacom South Africa Chief Officer for External Affairs says “This year’s theme is ‘Storytellers’, as we recognise the role which journalists play as watchdogs in our society, seeking to report the stories of our time and holding power to account. Credible journalism plays an essential part in supporting healthy democracies and Vodacom is proud to play a part in promoting world class journalism in South Africa. Congrats to our regional winners and thanks to our convener Mapi Mhlangu and her esteemed judging panel who selflessly devote many hours of work to the VJOYs.”
VJOY Convener Mapi Mhlangu says “Entries for this region touched on the heart wrenching devastation caused by the April floods and the aftermath of the July unrest. Journalists delivered the most artistic and creative story telling in the features category. The judges had a difficult time to decide on the winners, because of the high quality. We remain confident in the future of journalism and the media industry in South Africa. We applaud journalists for the dignity and eloquence displayed in dealing with the stories of distress, grief, as well as shining the spotlight on the criminalisation of our key economic sectors by well organised cartels. Congratulations to all the regional winners and good luck with the nationals.”
The regional winners are:
At one stage in our lives, a motor vehicle was deemed a luxury. Nowadays, it’s undeniably a serious essential for more reasons than one. However, even as an essential, many a consumer would put a ceiling on the amount to be spent on a vehicle. The journalist picked up that a vehicle was being sold at a dealership for a whopping R1.1m. Mind you it was a Toyota Cressida. No, not out of the box but a 1986 model. The winner from the Sunday Tribune is Mervyn Naidoo. A commendation must be made to Jayed-Leigh Paulse from SABC for her story on the autistic teenagers.
This year’s regional winner showed great versatility and skill in two branches of photography – sport and breaking news. For an engaging picture essay on the Duzi Canoe Marathon and an iconic shot of a devastated landscape and community after the April floods, the winner is Sandile Ndlovu of TimesLive/Sunday Times. The judges also commended another portfolio of images depicting the KwaZulu-Natal floods and a photograph of the horror and tragedy of a man who lost his life while stealing electric cables, all from Doctor Ngcobo of the Mercury and Isolezwe.
Financial & Economics
Regrettably, the judges did not find any entrant worthy of winning this category this year. It is common knowledge that KZN boasts some of the best financial journalists in the country. The judges would like to call upon local journalists and encourage them to enter the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards. It is always helpful to pitch one’s skills against one’s peers.
Innovation in Journalism
The judges were sad not to see a winner from this region this year. Innovation in journalism revolves around both novel techniques and technologies on the one hand and, on the other, finding new ways to tell a story so that it provides insights that were not possible before. We know that, as in other regions, there are journalists here who are driven by one of the key questions of journalism and innovation: “How can we find out more?” We hope that local journalists will have the opportunities to develop and enter innovative work for next year’s awards.
The sewerage problem has become a big concern in South Africa. Our regional winner examined the sewage problem and the acidic mine water overflow into streets and rivers in certain parts of the country. For a series of articles that drew attention to this escalating crisis, meticulous research into a vital and widespread sustainability issue landed the regional award for a body of work entitled ‘The Big Stink’ by Anthony Carnie of the Daily Maverick. The judges also commended Dominic Naidoo of IOL for his often vivid storytelling in ‘SA’s birds of prey face magnitude of threats.’
The Features section brought different parts of the country to readers and listeners in direct and vivid ways. Almost all the entries showcased excellent journalism. So, the judges faced a tough decision. This year there were 21 entries from the region, some comprising two or three parts that focused on the devastating floods, the aftermath of the July unrest and other social issues. Notable was the work that looked at how journalists as story tellers approached these big stories and the individual impact they had on their craft and mental well-being. Many of these contributions were fascinating to read or watch and gave the public different and interesting insights into the issues.
Overall, the standard was very high. In the end the judges decided to commend eNCA’s Dasen Thathiah for the body of work which included a behind the scenes look at the KZN Floods as well as July unrest memories. The judges would also like to commend Carte Blanche’s Carol Albertyn Christie for her feature on Retirement home neglect.
The winning entry dealt with the growing trend of the criminalisation of some of the key sectors of the country’s economy by well organised syndicates. The story gave viewers a rare glimpse into a successful police operation Tactical Take Down involving multi-disciplinary teams in an epic illegal mining take down. Nicky Troll wins the regional award for her Carte Blanche feature piece titled Tactical Take Down.
Live Reporting & Breaking News
Live reporting an event can be a daunting task. You don’t have time to prepare or gather information before you rush to the scene where a natural disaster is taking place or an accident scene where the police and ambulance sirens are still howling. To cover breaking news effectively – and get your facts straight when information is scanty – requires a cool head and a thorough knowledge of the principles of news reporting. From juggling the rapid-fire pace of information flowing through or demands for information for different platforms.
Live reporting on the devastating floods that hit the province this year dominated entries in this category. The judges would like to commend Yogashen Pillay of The Mercury for his reports on floods. Sakhiseni Ndumiso Nxumalo of The Witness also receives commendation for his story on a 4-year-old kidnapped, strangled and left for dead. The regional winner is eNCA’s Dasen Thathiah with contributor Nkanyiso Mdlalose for the body of work which included a behind the scenes look at the KZN Floods.
Investigative articles can be provocative, humorous and entertaining. They can approach an issue from any perspective. Many of the entries in this region were very impressive. The judges were very impressed with the opinion piece of Clive Nodu of The Witness titled “Cyril Ramaphosa’s strategy remains to be seen,” which offers perspective on the Phala Phala issue and President Ramaphosa’s strategy to deal with the matter.
However, the winning entry from this region reflected on a personal experience of the author during the years of Apartheid from the time when she was only seven years old. The author takes the reader on a journey of discovery as she recounts her painful experience and how certain incidents such as seeing the display of the old South African flag often trigger those painful memories. For her piece titled, “Freedom of speech? You want to wave our pain in our faces”, the regional winner is Nivashni Nair of TimesLive.
The KwaZulu-Natal province rarely agrees on anything, and it was no surprise therefore to see the intense rivalry on politics, itself a combative subject even to the pacifists. The judges were one in commending Sihle Mavuso from IOL for his activism journalism effort with his piece, “How bickering between ANC and IFP Stalled Service Delivery”, and Jayed-Leigh Paulse from SABC for her body of work on detailing the state of campaigning ahead of the local government elections.
The winner showed their vast knowledge of global dynamics, especially of the underworld. In a highly entertaining and fun piece, the writer compared the KZN politics to a known mafia gang that prowled the streets of Sicily extorting money from those that wanted to do business in the island nation. In a clever fashion, implying former president Jacob Zuma was directing life in the province from behind the scenes, the Winner is Christopher Makhaye of Daily Maverick for his poignant, tongue-in-cheek story titled “Dons Have KZN in their grip”.
The winning entry in this region is not a new subject but one that tells in fresh, powerful visuals and words of a project that has given dignity to Durban’s street kids. It has turned them into accomplished surfers and given them hope to succeed under really difficult circumstances. Our regional winners are, for the New Frame’s package, Mlungisi Mbele and Greg Arde. Their winning entry is also an ode to New Frame, an online publication we lost this year that treated us to wonderful, in-depth analytical journalism that went to the heart of the issues faced by our country. In the sport category, the judges also commend Independent Media’s Mike Greenaway for his engaging and consistent work.
Cross-border crime is a massive problem in South Africa. Communities living along the country’s border with neighbouring countries find themselves at the mercy of heavily armed criminals who commit acts of crime with impunity. Covering such stories also exposes journalists to danger. Chris Makhaye of the Daily Maverick braved the terrain and brought to the readers outstanding work of journalism which exposed criminal gangs terrorising communities along the SA-Mozambique border in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. The judges commended Makhaye for his bravery and excellence in investigative journalism.
The judges also commend Tony Carnie from Daily Maverick for his amazing work in exposing failure by the authorities to regulate the sale of skin lightening cream - some found to contain mercury levels radically above the legal level. Carnie exposed how ordinary South Africans, mainly women from poor communities, are left vulnerable by the failure to enforce and tighten regulations. This is despite the fact that South Africa is a signatory to the global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.
Our regional winners focused on the riots that broke out in South Africa in July 2021. They not only shocked South Africans, damaged the economy and the country’s ability to maintain law and order but they were also an opportunity for great journalism. This is something that many media outlets struggled with. Not so for a team from the Sunday Times, who combined excellence in journalism and innovation to bring to South Africans, Africa and the world, new facts, the real and full impact of the July 2021 riots. The Sunday Times team (Thanduxolo Jika, Kholeka Radebe, Amanda Khoza and Nolo Moima) led by Nicky Gules are deserved regional winners for their outstanding work.
Young Journalist Nominee – none
The national awards ceremony will take place on 24 November 2022 and will be a hybrid event.