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18th National Vodacom Journalist of the Year winner announced

Thursday, 21 November 2019

21 November, 2019. At the 18th edition of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards held at Vodacom World earlier tonight, News24’s Tammy Petersen took top honours and the R100 000 grand prize as national winner for her body of work on a gang war series entitled When you live in Hanover Park, you know death. Petersen’s submission was one of over 1 000 entries received from around the country across 12 categories - Investigative, Opinion, Lifestyle, Photography, Sport, Economics, Politics, CSI, Live reporting/ breaking news, Data Journalism, Multi-platform and the Young Journalist of the Year Award. This year’s theme - Connect the Dots - pays tribute to the best-of-the-best of those entries.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at Vodacom Group says: “This year has seen extraordinary entries to the 18th Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards. Not all the stories that are national winners were about huge events but also showed the importance of telling the stories of ordinary people. In line with our theme, the dots were indeed connected, and we congratulate all the winners.”

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “The quality of entries has convinced the judges once again that our industry is in good hands, as far as journalism is concerned, despite the many problems that have beset the industry in recent times. Judging from the entries, South African journalists are determined to fly the flag high for a free, independent, and vigorous media, which augurs well for our democracy. As judges, we can only salute all the entrants for the great work that they submitted. In the end, our industry is probably the biggest winner.”

Judges for this year’s awards are: Ryland Fisher (convenor), Jermaine Craig, Arthur Goldstuck, Albe Grobbelaar, Franz Kruger, Patricia McCracken, Mapi Mhlangu, Collin Nxumalo, Mary Papayya, and Obed Zilwa.

Winners and commendations in each category for the 2019 Vodacom Journalist of the Year are:

South Africa has seen great growth in investigative journalism, and the country’s politics have been irreversibly changed as a result. While the sector was previously dominated by a single story, the judges were heartened to see a much greater range of topics, very well covered and told with flair and passion. Several local investigations, for example, provided real value to their communities. The judges particularly want to commend Raymond Joseph and Anton van Zyl from the Western Cape region for their tenacity in writing their investigative series, Gaming The Lottery. The national winner of this category, however, showed impressive and ongoing national impact, pre-empting evidence before the Zondo commission and new twists keeping the topic of Bosasa on the country’s radar. The winner is Kyle Cowan of News24.

In an election year, where it was important to hear the voices of a broad range of South Africans, and not just the experts, our winning team took politics to the people to find and air their views. For allowing ordinary South Africans to share their opinions, in their languages and on multi-platforms, the national winners in the opinion category are Olwethu Matsipane, Krivani Pillay, and Deidre Uren of SABC News.

In a field of exciting and high-quality entries, one stood head and shoulders above all others in this category. This online series was compelling, exceptional, and innovative and powerfully portrayed the tragedy of the gang wars pandemic in Hanover Park through the people who are closest to it – grieving families, young children, trauma doctors, police, and social workers. For a bold and heart-rending seven-part series, the winner is Tammy Petersen from News24 Online.

The national winner captured the many moods of a defendant in a high-profile case that wove together religion, sexual abuse, pain, tears, and contrasting characters. It gripped the attention of our nation and images were splattered all over television, social media and newspapers, creating a great challenge to any photographer to capture a creatively original and insightful image. For his series of pictures of Timothy Omotoso at his rape trial entitled Man van God nie Tronk toe, the winner is Lulama Zenzile of Die Son and Netwerk24. 

Following your country’s national teams around the sporting stages of the world is a rare privilege for any sports journalist. While it’s a fantastic experience, it’s also extremely hard work and long hours working across a range of platforms. For his body of work, which included daily radio crossings, online stories, tour diaries, podcasts, and videos produced specifically for social media, our national sport winner for his high-quality multi-media work at the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup is East Coast Radio’s Myron Naicker.

This category posed particularly tough decisions for the judges, who were faced with high-calibre regional winners from across the country. However, our national winner in this category is rewarded for blending in-depth and sometimes risky field research with a clearly expressed and argued account of the downfall of one of South Africa’s key economic sectors. For her painstaking, extended and exceptional reporting, the award goes to Lisa Steyn of the Financial Mail for The Death of Gold Mining.

At its best, journalism contributes to the political discussion by shining a light on realities that need to be taken into account. The winner in this category has done just that. With meticulous investigation, outstanding use of the storytelling opportunities of both television and print, and empathetic attention to the lives of those affected, the ways in which existing land-reform initiatives have been misused and corrupted are clearly pointed out, emphasising how this should be factored into debates about land. For their reports for the SABC’s Special Assignment and the Mail & Guardian, the winners are Hazel Friedman and Ridwaan Ismail for Bitter Harvest and The Lie of the Land for SABC’s Special Assignment, and Hazel Friedman for her articles in the Mail & Guardian Farm FlippingThe Land of Empty Promises, and Corruption Plagues Land Reform.

The sustainability of our society and environment is all too often overlooked instead of being safeguarded as our national Constitution urges. For a piece that shows how environmental neglect leads to health challenges, threatens recreational businesses, and endangers South Africa’s international reputation as a green haven, the national winner is a body of work on the sewage-infested Vaal River by Sheree Bega of Saturday Star.

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 seek to reward those who break important news stories fast and accurately, despite obstacles being thrown in their way such as a lack of resources or apparently unrealistic deadlines. The national winner showed an extraordinary work appetite and ethic, breaking four stories on one day yet still giving a face to the human tragedy, treating victims with sensitivity and taking his audiences to the scene. Our winner is the body of work entered by Dasen Thathiah of eNCA. Contributors were Nkanyiso Mdlalose and Francois Grobler.

Data journalism
In a world driven by information – and often misinformation – the role of data journalism becomes immense. It can provide the context and proper information needed to make sense of often confusing stories by presenting evidence that cannot be disputed. The national winning entry covered a subject that is often opaque to most journalists, going into intensive, yet readable detail. It unravelled the full complexities of the mobile operators’ stances on data pricing, the role played by spectrum, and what it will take to change the pricing structure. The national winner is Liesl Pretorius of Fin24 for The price of data.

Multi-platform journalism is an exciting field where reporters constantly push the elastic space of online media. They combine the traditional values of enterprising, balanced and insightful reporting with creative approaches to multiple platforms and online tools, resulting in effective and gripping storytelling. This year’s national winner used a website for contextual framing of a series of innovative podcasts that literally give voice to the voiceless. The national winner for SA’s Forgotten Citizens is Mihlali Ntsabo of Eyewitness News.

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-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.

Nominees were:
Naziziphiwo Buso of The Herald from Eastern Cape
Martinette Hay of Vrystaat Nuus from the Free State/Northern Cape/Northwest and Limpopo region
Karabo Ledwaba of the Sowetan from Gauteng
Andiswa Matikinca of Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism from the KwaZulu-Natal/Mpumalanga region
Luke Folb Weekend Argus from the Western Cape region

The winner is Karabo Ledwaba from the Sowetan.

The Vodacom Journalist of the Year for 2019
The Chinese have a curse: “May you live in interesting times.” South Africans have always lived in interesting times and we have had a surfeit of huge stories. The struggle against apartheid was one of the biggest stories in the world at the time. The rampant corruption in our country in recent years was another. But a big story in South Africa has been all but ignored by the media and the world. This is the virtual genocide in the part of South Africa known as the Cape Flats where dozens of people are murdered on a weekly basis. It was only when the army moved in an attempt to quell the violence, that many people took notice. One writer went out of her way to tell the story of what are sometimes called ordinary people on the Cape Flats. What she found were stories of compelling compassion and people needing extraordinary courage in order to live decent lives. She reflected sensitively on their daily struggles and gave a voice to many people who would not ordinarily have a voice – which is what good journalism is supposed to be about. We hope that her work will encourage others to start focusing on what is one of the big and overlooked stories of our time.

For her body of work, a gang war series entitled When you live in Hanover Park, you know death, our Vodacom Journalist of the Year is Tammy Petersen of News24.

Each regional category winner receives R5,000, while national category winners take home an additional R10,000. The overall Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award winner lands the grand prize of R100,000. In the event of joint winners, the prize money will be shared. This year’s winner of the young journalist award, one of the competition’s most prestigious accolades, gets an all-expenses paid overseas trip to work in an international newsroom, including a visit to the renowned Thomson Foundation.

Citation for lifetime achiever
The struggle against apartheid was fought on many fronts. There was huge political pressure on the government of the day. There were sanctions, on the sporting, cultural and business fronts. The government often responded with serious acts of repression, invoking the might of their army and police in trying to quell resistance to an inhuman system. Many of the actions of the police and the army might have gone unnoticed in the world if it was not for a dedicated group of photographers throughout the country who tried to record apartheid atrocities, often at huge risk to themselves.

Our Lifetime Achiever was one of those brave men who used their cameras to tell the story of apartheid to the world. Without their contribution, we might never have overcome apartheid and become a democracy.

Our Lifetime Achiever, who passed away in September, is Willie de Klerk, a legendary photographer for the Cape Argus. He was the first black photographer to be employed full time by the paper. He was one of the few photographers to capture the Trojan Horse shootings in 1985, when police hid in crates on the back of a truck and fired on protesters.

Willie was one of the best at the time but was never properly recognised. He was runner up in the national photographic competition three times in succession, losing out mainly because his skin was not white.

The judges felt we wanted to honour his contribution to the media industry and to the transformation of our society, even though we realise that it might have come a few months too late.

View previous press releases
18th National Vodacom Journalist of the Year winner announced | Vodacom Group