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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 Gauteng 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 “Most news organisations have their headquarters in Gauteng, the province with the highest concentration of resources and people. This was evident by the high volume of entries for the Vodacom Journalist of the year competition. Here submissions gave us a helicopter view of the country’s current affairs as Johannesburg-based journalists were deployed to many parts of the country to support other provinces with breaking news.
These journalists demonstrated their experience in telling these stories truthfully, accurately and emotively. They skilfully told stories of today, as set-up by past events, and as they in turn set the course for the future. There was also a high volume of long form and slow journalism pieces. The judges were particularly impressed by the volume of the sound entries in voice categories however some of these entries fell short in producing rich natural sounds that are so essential for radio. Congratulations to all regional winners and good luck with the nationals.”
The regional winners are:
We received interesting entries of varying quality from this region. The judges were especially blown away by the work of Eugenie Gregan of e-Nuus and Constance Gaanakgomo of TshisaLIVE from ThisaLIVE Podcast. The judges were impressed with Gregan’s story titled “Student verower honneursgraad in eg-Suid-Afrikaanse lekkernye” and the second one titled “Honde kort liefde” which was about a Shoshanguve animal lover who is teaching people how to care for their dogs. The judges were equally impressed by Gaanakgomo’s two stories titled “Anele Mdoda on producing the Afrikaans movie Ludik” and “Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse” on turning 70.
However, the winning entry is a body of work by Charles Leonard of the New Frame Podcast. His body of work included a story titled “Who’s the blues for?” which chronicles the broad influence of that music genre in a compelling way that incredibly evokes the audience’s emotional experience.
In April, KwaZulu-Natal was hit by the worst floods South Africa has seen in recent history and the national government declared a national State of Disaster. Images of this humanitarian crisis poured into the media, and we were forcefully reminded that climate change is happening now, leading to disasters in many places in the world. Climate change is also a human-rights crisis, particularly affecting billions of children across the globe. Undoubtedly, the most moving and heart-wrenching image from the KZN floods was that of the body of a baby washed up on a Durban beach – underlining how the real loss in this disaster was the loss of life.
For this and a delicate photo-essay depiction of a cancer patient in hospital, the regional winner is Daily Maverick photographer Shiraaz Mohamed.
Financial & Economics
The Gauteng Province is known for its riches in mineral deposits. It is generally acknowledged as the economic hub of not only the country, but also the pivot of the southern African region around which the economies of the neighbouring states are reliant. The entries homed-in on sectors that contribute to the growth of regional economies, their success or otherwise. Most of the stories displayed high quality writing and were very competitive.
The judges agreed while there can only be one winner, a word commendation was in order for entrants that came close to taking the prize. Mpho Lakaje of eNCA for a body of work “The battle for Commuters”; Kabelo Khumalo of Sunday World for a body of work “From Workers Mine to greedy bosses”; and Rob Rose of Financial Mail and his team, Claire Bisseker and Natasha Marrian , “How Eskom returned the country to the Dark Ages”, tackled various topics, all of which went to the heart of what makes Gauteng stay ahead of the rest.
The winner entered a body of work, amongst which was a story that gave the province its character. However, mining, which has been the backbone of the South African economy, has since birthed Mafia criminal syndicates, with murder and mayhem becoming the defining feature of the industry. The writer invested a lot of time speaking to stakeholders, from small-time operators, the Zama-Zamas to syndicate kingpins in the background, and also government officials in an effort to try and get answers to reasons for increased killings in the sector and also what the future held. The winner for her untiring pursuit of truth in the article: “Inside SA’s Mining Mafia”, is the Financial Mail’s Lisa Steyn, for her in-depth expose of the criminal element present in mining sector.
Innovation in Journalism
Innovation in journalism revolves around both novel techniques and technologies and finding new ways to tell a story so that it provides insights that were not possible before. The winning entry for Gauteng is a body of work that uses data journalism to delve skilfully into different aspects of a sport that has been covered intensively for decades, yet had never seen this kind of treatment in South Africa. For bringing both new insight and new coverage techniques to South African football, the winner is Mamaili Mamaila of The Outlier for her body of work.
Sustainability entries sometimes cover the obvious: stories that many of us can see unfold before us, from drought-stricken farms to polluted air to environmental destruction. The journalists that tend to stand out are those that go further, uncovering hidden stories and even providing pointers to future sustainability. The winning entry from Gauteng is one such entry, literally rising above the urban landscape to find a story of hope and possibilities. For a story of farming on the rooftops of the Johannesburg CBD entitled “Boere in Beton”, the winner is Jacques Myburgh of Taalgenoot.
The Features category is about an in-depth look into the subject matter under discussion. In most cases this would require exploring and bringing into the public domain the background. Furthermore, the discipline of feature writing does permit usage of flowery and descriptive language.
The category attracted huge interest and due to the competitiveness of the group, the judges felt it correct to give commendations to those that did justice in this area. These are Mbasa Khwaza of eNCA for her piece on eNyobeni, and Elizabeth Fish of Carte Blanche for her piece on Public Health.
The winner showed empathy and deep feeling, decrying the state of cemeteries countrywide and also reliving the former iconic town of Mafikeng and what it has since become under a democratic state: a horror town with filth everywhere. In so doing, allowed the viewers and listeners to make their own conclusions and judgment. In her body of work “Mahikeng – The city of shame”; and “Haunting the Dead”, the Gauteng Winner in the Features category is EWN’s Abigail Javier with contributor Mia Lindeque.
Live Reporting & Breaking news
It is common knowledge that there is never a dull moment for a newshound in South Africa. Such breaking news may be plentiful, but it is of paramount importance that the audience gets to know of stories as soon as possible. Journalists who report live are required to arrive at the scene of the story in double-quick time, gather facts speedily without distortion, and present the piece coherently. The radio reporter bears a heavier burden as she or he is required to literally think and deliver on her or his feet. The immediacy of the medium places those demands on the journalist. The winner, who rose to the occasion for his reports on the Rosettenville crime scene and the arrest of the defence lawyer in the Senzo Meyiwa case, is Kgomotso Modise from Eyewitness News.
Commendations in this category are made to Jeff Wicks for his piece titled the “Battlefield” for the Rosettenville story, and Karyn Maughan for the arrest of the Gupta brothers in Dubai. Both journalists are with News24.
Opinion writing is a special skill and requires the writer to exhibit not only a sublime turn of phrase but to be able to take the reader on a journey with him. The Citizen’s Faizel Patel manages this in his body of work about the tragedy that befell him - the loss of his mother - as well as bringing to the reader the full human costs of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Patel rounded off his excellent work with a compelling personal account of his reunion with his son on Father’s Day. For his world class work, Patel is the Regional Winner in Gauteng.
The Judges commend Kyle Cowan of News24, who covered, with aplomb, one of South Africa’s biggest stories – the demise of Eskom. The Judges commend Cowan for his analysis and opinion which assisted readers to better understand one of the biggest stories of our lifetime. In his body of work, Cowan displays his deep knowledge of the subject and his excellent use of language to deliver an impressive body of work.
In a very humane way, Samantha Herbst of News24, tackled a tragedy of huge proportions - a mother who killed her three young children - to ask pertinent questions and shine a light on the plight of many South Africans, from all walks of life who find themselves in a dark place, with nowhere to turn. For her work, which sounded a clarion call for help for those psychological assistance, the Judges commend Herbst.
From time to time, South Africa is hauled into its painful past, partly because the apartheid government was not sufficiently held to account for some of the atrocities committed in its name. In his powerful work, Hamilton Wende from Daily Maverick confronts this question head on, tackling questions that many South Africans will be dealing with as they confront their past in an attempt to build their future. The judges commend Wende for sharing his inner conflict about what many have labelled “the unfinished business”.
Politics is everyone’s business. True to form, the category provided varied quality of highly contending topics. The judges agreed to give commendations to Tebogo Tshwane of AmaBhungane for his untiring efforts to find the truth behind the Phala Phala alleged robbery with his piece: Ramaphosa’s Stolen Million: The Namibian Connection, and also offer a word of encouragement to Chanel Retief of Forbes Africa for his story: Anger, Anarchy: The despair of Business and people united in Hope.
In the end however, the judges felt there was nothing separating two stories that, on closer assessment, define the character of South Africa, both during the apartheid era and the democratic state. One of the joint winners helped reinforce the belief that in South Africa, Wasteful Expenditure has replaced Coca-Cola in the popularity stakes, while the other brought to life the brutality of apartheid with his incisive reporting decrying the absence of accountability for perpetrators.
The Joint Winners in the Politics Category for Gauteng are Norman Masungwini of City Press for his expose of government vehicles left to rot in what really is nothing but wasteful expenditure for his piece, “R480 million Bill For Idle State Cars”, and Charles Leonard of New Frame for his Body of Work, among which is the blood chilling revelations of the torture under the apartheid regime.
Sport is ordinarily about the stories of triumph, success and glory in the arena. But our regional winner this year shone the spotlight on the dark side of sport, particularly the alarming number of child abuse cases prevalent across multiple sporting codes. For her body of work, and especially her relentless investigation into the scourge of rampant abuse of children in sport after being entrusted to the care of coaches and instructors, our regional winner is eNCA’s Hloni Mtimkulu.
In a category characterised by strong entries, the Judges commended Dewald van Rensburg, of Amabhungane, for undertaking a difficult and complicated investigation to expose the criminal syndicates involved in the “illicit economy” that involves illegal dealings in gold, tobacco as well as defrauding the South African Revenue Services. The judges commend Van Rensburg for world class work in bringing to the readers an investigation which mapped out the role of illegal gold miners, Krugerrand dealers and the so-called “paper invoice factories”.
Also, in a category characterised by strong entries, the Judges commended Devi Sankaree, of eTV, for her outstanding investigative journalism expose of a sweatshop right in the middle of affluent Johannesburg North. Sankaree not only exposed abuse of workers during the Covid-19 outbreak but also revealed their inhumane living conditions. The judges commend Sankaree for her hard work, excellence and determination in investigative journalism.
Our joint winners displayed the true elements of investigative journalism which requires special skills and patience, going far beyond the extra-mile as well as the ability to pull all facts and figures from a myriad of sources, and making them make sense to tell a story. This is what Jeff Wicks and Kyle Cowan of News24 did in bringing to South Africa, new facts about two of the biggest stories in South Africa in 2022. The stories are the callous murder of whistleblower Babita Deokaran and Eskom. The judges reward Wicks and Cowan for their tenacity, thoroughness, and excellence in journalism.
Winning works and contributors, include:
Jeff Wicks for body of work ‘Silenced - Why Babita Deokaran was murdered’ with no contributors.
Young Journalist Nominee is Michelle Banda, from the Daily Maverick.
The national awards ceremony will take place on 24 November 2022 and will be a hybrid event.