South Africa's top journalists have been eagerly awaiting the regional results of the 2022 Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards. The competition kicked off with the results announced today for the Eastern Cape 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 "Eastern Cape journalists have always excelled in telling stories about the daily challenges facing the people of this largely rural province and this year was no different. We received 191 entries for the Eastern Cape. In these entries, journalists demonstrated their ability to unearth what is hidden, ask the questions that need answering, before packaging it all in a compellingly told, yet all-too-real and sobering story. These contributions were fascinating however judges felt some journalists should fine-tune some of their submission and television production skills."
The regional winners are:
There is no doubt that investigative journalism contributes the most to the watchdog role of the media which is important in any democratic society. It involves stories that take a lot of time, effort and guts to investigate. The judges would like to commend Matthew Field (Daily Dispatch) for his investigative piece titled Big stink over 'R1bn' sewer tunnel and Siphamandla Kema of Newzroom Afrika for his story titled "A hospital of horror".
The regional winner, however, was a body of work of an in-depth investigation on the circumstances around the suicide of a 16-year-old schoolboy who hanged himself and his entanglement with his teacher and water polo coach. For the story titled My only story: back to school, the regional winner is Nokuthula Manyathi and her team Deon Wiggett, Alison Pope and Sesona Ngqakamba of News24.
An opinion piece can focus on any issue as long it is of public interest. It must be detail-oriented and provide the author's perspective in a tone that is conversational and engaging. The entries in this category lived up to these criteria. The judges commend Luke Charter, Bongani Fuzile, Aphiwe De Klerk, Vuyolwethu Sangotsha, and Sithandiwe Velaphi from Daily Dispatch for their elaborate piece which provides an insightful perspective on the Enyobeni tavern tragedy.
The judges also commend Bonathi Magqoboka from Daily Dispatch for his piece "Sukuthula! Yiba ngummeli woncedo" which calls upon members of the public to play their role for the public good instead of becoming bystanders.
Stories of disputes involving royal families are the staple diet of the media. Similarly, climate change issues have become a serious concern for any country. These issues were the subject of the two winning entries that impressed the judges in this category. The first of these two winning entries focused on two royal family members who set their differences aside after many years of acrimony while the second is a body of work with articles ranging from an ecology-based economy to probing whether climate awareness and resilience should be part of our school curriculum.
Our joint winners are Lulamile Feni of the Daily Dispatch for his opinion piece aptly titled "AbaThembu king's reconciliation with son a truly joyous moment" and Mike Louw from Daily Dispatch for his body of work called "So many different ways to tap into a climate beat -- and discover new opinions"
A feature story is not just about sitting at a desk, making a few telephone calls and churning out a piece. It goes far beyond as experienced by the journalist who literally tumbled but did not fumble to get to the location of the story. Transportation at the best of times in the country is an enormous challenge but imagine using a 200-litre drum to get from one point to another. The winner for his heart-breaking story on the Dikidikini village is Newzroom Afrika's Siphamandla Kema with contributor Sinethemba Blandile.
A commendation is made to Riaan Marais from the Weekend Postfor his story titled "Praying for a miracle in the dust".
Lifestyle journalism is a delightful addition to long-established news formats. This was evident in some of the Lifestyle entries in this region. The judges marvelled at the way journalists engrossed themselves in credible storytelling by adding their expertise for vivid storytelling. The judges commend Riaan Marais for his sensitive portrayal of a young disabled farmer in the story titled: "Where there is a wheel, there is a way" in the Weekend Post. We also enjoyed his account of the dancing traffic officer on a busy intersection.
For his imaginative writing in a body of work bringing the Walter Battiss Museum in Somerset East to life, and exploring the meaning of the images of the James Webb telescope in a brilliant way Charles Anthony Jackman of the Daily Maverickis regional winner.
The world of mixed martial arts is often considered – and portrayed as – a full contact combat sport where violence and machismo reigns supreme. The winning entry in this region told the story of how "beyond the blood and bruises", two dedicated family men from Kwazakhele and Zwide are using the sport to inspire their communities, to act as responsible role models and, most importantly, to fashion a better life for their families and children. The regional winner is The Herald's Riaan Marais.
Financial and Economics
Ideally, this category looks at the well-being of the country in respect of economic performance, the usage and/or otherwise of its finances. It does not require reminding that all of this is done with a view to understanding the impact on and how the citizenry is affected. The Eastern Cape was shy of attracting many entrants. Of those that saw the need to write about the province's finances and economic well-being, the judges agreed the focus given to government's handling of the budget allocated to it left much to be desired. There can only be one explanation why a department fails to spend the money allocated to it: the absence of required skills to effectively deal with matters of monetary nature, meaning that wrong people are given responsibilities for which they're not qualified for. The Winner of the Finance & Economics category for the Eastern Cape is the Daily Dispatch's Asanda Nini for his piece exposing the Social Department's failure to spend its food parcel budged, which resulted in R67 million returned to treasury, leaving millions that could have benefited from the allocation destitute.
The Eastern Cape has never known dull moments in politics, and this was borne out by the strong entries we received in this region. Many of the stories dealt with the lack of service delivery in local government and the intriguing politics associated with this level of government. The judges had a tough choice and, in the end, we decided to highly commend two entries. They are:
Siyamtanda Capa, with Michael Kimberley and Yolanda Palezweni, of The Herald for their body of work on The bloody battle for control of the ANC in the Eastern Cape, and;
Malibongwe Dayimani, of News24, for his reports on the collapse of the Amahlathi local municipality in Stutterheim, and his reports on how a political party tried to woo AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo.
Both of our highly commended entrants displayed incredible insight in their reporting.
Our winner is another team effort from the reporters at The Herald. The winning entry was a body of work dealing with the collapse of the coalition government in Nelson Mandela Bay, from Michael Kimberley, with Mandilakhe Kwababana, Yolanda Palezweni, with contributors Ntsikelelo Qoyo and Siyamtanda Capa.
During the recent, years-long drought around Nelson Mandela Bay, water became a lifesaving resource – yet could still be squandered, even by those in power. Citizens were anxious about whether the little water available was suitable for human consumption, whether E coli contamination had been controlled and whether they could rely on the municipality's vague information and guidance. For tenacious digging into the problems of the municipality's water supply and quality, the regional award goes to a body of work, 'A city in drought', by Siyamtanda Capa, Michael Kimberley, Yolanda Palezweni and Ntsikelelo Qoyo of The Herald.
The judges also commend Estelle Ellis of the Daily Maverick for her work on malnutrition among young children in the region.
Live reporting/ breaking news
The hallmark of a good journalist is to always be at the ready to cover a developing issue at the drop of a hat. The journalist could be described as the "go to" individual in the newsroom when a story breaks. This is an incredible body of work that encapsulates the execution of a mother and her daughters, a miracle baby being pulled out from a grave, and a wife buried under a bathtub. The winner from the Daily Dispatch is Lulamile Feni.
Violent protests have become the norm in South Africa. To keep us informed and show us the realities, photographers often have to place themselves in dangerous positions where they are at the mercy of the protestors and their actions. The winning set of photographs shows how anger at unequal service delivery can lead to damage to much-needed infrastructure, even the hacking down and burning of the electrical poles that supply an area's electricity. The winner is Werner Hills of The Herald.
Innovation in journalism
Taking existing, new technology from the realm of travel, adventure and wildlife journalism into political reporting helped this region's winning entry succeed. By intercutting vivid footage obtained by using a Go Pro camera, the reporting team was able to put the viewer more forcefully into the scene of roads where you must dodge potholes and obstacles. The winners for the package Service Delivery Gauge: Makhanda are the SABC's Lerato Fekisi and Marcus Brenner.
The judges also commended Tembile Sgqolana of the Daily Maverick for her use of graphs to depict dam levels in the province, incorporating interactive elements to provide access to additional detail.
Young Journalist of the Year Award – No winner was selected from the region
The national awards ceremony will take place on 24 November 2022 and will be a hybrid event.