A story which exposed horrifying conditions in theEastern Cape’s rural school hostels has won the 7th Taco Kuiper Award – and R200 000 in prize money – for outstanding investigative journalism by South African media.
At the awards ceremony held on Friday 5 April 2013, in Johannesburg, the convenor of the judging panel, Caxton Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Wits University, Anton Harber, described the winning entry from Msindisi Fengu of the Daily Dispatch as follows: “East London’s newspaper has identified a way of taking one small item – in this case a remark by an MEC that prisons were ‘far better’ than the Eastern Cape’s rural school hostels – and turning it into a major investigation. Msindisi set out to visit 70 school hostels. Forty of them turned out be ghost hostels, and did not even exist, and those he saw over two months allowed him to document horrifying conditions.
“This was not a story that arrived in an envelope or was the result of a lucky leak. It required many weeks on the road, visiting each school across the length and breadth of theEastern Capeto document the appalling conditions in which students had to live. Msindisi’s persistence, determination and rigour together led to a most important story, powerfully told. And powerfully illustrated by photographer Yandisa Monakali. As a result, at least one official was suspended and the provincial authorities were booted into action.”
This year’s entries were of such high quality that the judges decided to split the award for runner-up between Greg Marinovitch of Daily Maverick, for his Marikana exposé, and Stephan Hofstatter, Rob Rose and Mzilikazi wa Afrika of the Sunday Times for their work on the Cato Manor Death Squad.
According to Harber: “It is not often that a photographer makes an investigative breakthrough, but Marinovich’s determination and passion led him to find evidence that everyone else was missing, and pointing to an entirely new explanation of what happened on that fateful day that claimed the lives of 34 miners.”
Harber said the Sunday Times team took last year’s story of a rogue police squad and mixed well-researched, fresh evidence with effective storytelling. “This horrifying story is of particular importance because it provides the backdrop to the current concerns over police violence.”
He said the shortlist of entries proved South African investigative journalism was up there with the finest in the world. “This is particularly pertinent at a time when there are direct threats to our freedom to do this important work.”
For more information, contact Margaret Renn at (011) 717 4043 or Margaret.Renn@wits.ac.za.