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 Western 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 “Much was lost – but just as much was gained in South Africa in the past 12 months. We watched in horror as parliament burned down. We were united in grief as we bade farewell to Nobel Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. However, the death of another Nobel prize-winning South African, Fredrick Willem de Klerk, opened deep wounds and plunged us into yet another painful debate about apartheid, atonement and forgiveness.
Yet amid these upheavals there were many gains – from the legal actions against Lotto bosses accused of allegedly using millions of much-needed charity funds to prop up their penchant for living large to the historic win by Banyana Banyana.
All these moments were eloquently captured by the Western Cape journalism community as they produced work that connected us to understanding one another's deep sense of loss, regret, anger, joy and relief. That's why journalism exists – to seek out and tell truthfully, accurately and empathetically the stories of today. And 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. The VJOYs are about celebrating these storytellers. Congratulations to all regional winners and good luck at the national event.”
The regional winners are:
Lifestyle stories are not always about the glitz and the glamour. The judges were highly impressed with the quality of entries received from this region. The judges highly commend an entry from Pippa Hudson of Cape Talk together with her producer Rafiq Wagiet and technical producer OB Sitwayi. We were impressed with their story titled: “Travel Nomads” which gave us a glimpse into the nomadic life of a South African couple who quit their jobs and sold their home and belongings four years ago, to travel the world. Since then, they have been permanently on the move. When deciding on the winner, the judges had a difficult task. However, we finally decided on two entries which stood out above the rest. They are Herman Eloff of News24who produced an insightful body of work titled “The streaming wars” which adeptly explores the reality of television content distribution via streaming services that characterise television viewing today.
In the same vein, Hazel Friedman of Special Assignment SABC 3produced an exciting and elaborate story that focused on the global success of the South African song 'Jerusalema' to highlight the plight of musicians due to the exploitation and abuse of their intellectual property. The judges were particularly impressed with the meticulous way in which the winning stories were done. A big congratulation to Hazel Friedman and Herman Eloff, our 2022 Western Cape joint-winners.
Two tragedies struck Cape Town and South Africa a few days apart – Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu died and the day after his funeral, our Parliament burst into flames. A few months later, a devastating fire raged through Langa Township a few kilometres away. One after another, these events tore our hearts and damaged our collective soul. The regional winner captured all these moments in history with foresight, technical insight and a wonderful sense of timing. That winner is Cape Times photographer Phandulwazi Jikelofor the body of work:
The judges also commended two photographers in the region, they are:
Financial and Economics
Careers in the financial industry are too often stereotyped in headlines, news reports or even thrillers. The category was intensely contested, and anyone could have carried the win home. The judges felt it was correct to commend Andrew Thomson of Business Insider for his body of work that compared South Africa's rising costs of basic foodstuff with commodities elsewhere.
The winner in this category went beyond the scenes to portray the very human stories of those working in a major security company, from security guards to bosses. These were interwoven with the context of the high-level risks of the cash-in-transit sector within which they operate every working day. For his piece, “Inside the beating heart of the cash-in-transit industry”, the Winner is Robin Adams of the Weekend Argus.
Innovation in Journalism
Innovation in journalism revolves around both novel techniques and technologies and also finding new ways to tell a story so that it provides insights that were not possible before. Our regional winner gave the public access to data that had never previously been generally available. This required a PAIA request for access and months of development. Ultimately, the Police Accountability Tracker developed by Viewfinder's Daneel Knoetze gives open online access to the progress of complaint cases against the police. The judges also commended Marelize Barnard of Netwerk24 for Zondo-verslae'; Andrew Trench and teams for their body of work for News24; and Yuxi Wang of Daily Maverick for SA's Covid-19 expenditure'.
The spotlight fell regularly in the past year on perhaps South Africa's most unexpected crime – plant robbery from some of the country's most delicate heritage environments. One such article detailed this new green crime wave particularly well, astonishing the audience with the quantities that poachers have bagged and their international crime networks stretching from the US to Europe, and the Far East. The winner for SA's rare plants are being poached to extinction' is Caryn Dolley of DM168.
The judges also commended Onke Ngcuka of the Daily Maverick for articles on bees and on recycling and Claire Keeton of the Sunday Times for coverage of the standoff between traditional fishing and modern mining in The Wild West Coast Showdown'.
In a region with more than 60 entries, the judges had their work cut out for them. The quality of many of the feature entries were outstanding. In several cases it was hard or breaking news that led to journalists reflecting and narrating the story behind the news event. The judges were looking for in-depth features with a strong narrative thread. For their outstanding skill set in the category of features, we commend Sipokazi Fokazi from the Sunday Times for telling the shocking and gruesome tale of an 13-year-old that was butchered and dumped in a drain in Klawer. We also commend James Stent from GroundUpfor his intriguing expose on the CEO of Prasa's appointment.
However, the judges regarded the body of work highlighting trauma in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, and a first and exclusive interview with the father of the student on whose chair a fellow student urinated, as the winner for the Western Cape. Congratulations to Willemien Brummer from Netwerk24 forPandemie van verdriet.
Live Reporting & Breaking News
A journalist who excels in the coverage of breaking news is one who continually keeps his or her eyes and ears peeled. Once a story is detected, effort, energy and time are spent in providing the audience with accurate newsworthy information. The journalist displayed true attributes of a live reporter when covering the fire at Parliament. The winner from SABC radio is Mercedes Besent. A commendation is made in this category to Marvin Charles of News24 for his story on the Kalwer murder.
Opinion pieces can cover many different topics, from politics to the environment and social issues, among others. The best opinion pieces are those who provide a fresh perspective on an interesting issue, even better if it is something that has not been debated much in public. In the Western Cape region, we had many interesting entrants and decided to highly commend three entries. They are: Marcus Lowe of Spotlight for his incisive writing about the state of the public healthcare sector and his assessment of Zweli Mkhize's two years as the Minister of Health. Rebecca Davies of the Daily Maverick for her thought-provoking opinion piece on the Johnny Depp versus Amber Heard lawsuit. Tanya Farber of TimesLive for her realistic writing about the hopes and despairs of the residents of an informal settlement and her touching and emotional opinion piece about the senseless deaths of teenagers.
Our winner wrote about his experiences in Poland and the lessons he learned with regards to a strike at Eskom, and its effect on small business. Our regional winner is Khulekani Magubane of Fin24 for his entry: Eskom strike: A declaration of war on small business.
The death of FW de Klerk, the former leader of the National Party and the last president of Apartheid South Africa was one event that divided South Africa. Athi Mtongana from Newzroom Afrika, in her reportage of the death of De Klerk, managed to weave together journalism excellence, being first with the story and images, and provide the important context that assisted viewers to understand the complex story and the country's difficult journey from apartheid to an electoral democracy. It is the Judges unanimous decision that Mtongana with contributor Nduduzo Shandu is a deserving winner for the Western Cape Region in the Politics Category.
The period covered by the competition was the most exciting political period in South Africa, with rich pickings for political journalists. Political journalists in this region met the challenge head on and produced high quality work which the judges commend. The judges recognised the work of the following entrants: Steven Kretzman of the Daily Maverick for his entry: “Queue the Beloved Country”, Hazel Friedman of SABC's Special Assignment for her work titled: “Grapes of Wrath” and Marianne Merten for her body of work of three stories on politics.
The judges found it impossible to separate two entries in this region that told human stories of sacrifices from the unsung local heroes in the communities which helped two stars rise to the top of their professions against great odds. It has been as much a triumph for Desiree Ellis to rise to winning coach of the Women's African Cup of Nations as for the Cape Flats community she hails from. In the next generation, Keegan van der Merwe has become Western Cape 200-metre and 400-metre sprint champion after being discovered' at a church sports day. For telling these stories beautifully and with warmth and vivacity, our joint regional winners were respectively Voice of the Cape's Feroz Shaik and New Frame's Adrian Ephraim.
The principles of investigative journalism go to the heart of good, old-fashioned journalism. It involves hard work, a lot of digging and determination to get to truth of an issue which, if exposed, could benefit large groups of vulnerable people, if not the vast majority of the community. Good investigative journalism often leads to repercussions for the perpetrators of whatever is been exposed through or stories. This could involve the establishment of a commission of inquiry or the firing of corrupt officials.
We have been blessed again this year to have had a mouth-watering selection of solid entries into the investigative journalism category. We have decided to highly commend three entries who, in another year, could each have comfortably won this regional award.
The first is Carryn Dollie of the Daily Maverick for her incisive writing about the drug trade in the Western Cape, as well as the disturbing stories about police corruption and the lack of gun controls.
Our second commendation goes to Catherine Rice of News24 for her great investigation into the murder of Inge Lotz, who was bludgeoned and stabbed to death in her apartment in Stellenbosch in 2005. Despite having a strong alibi, her boyfriend was arrested and jailed for her murder and later released. In all this time, the police had a confession from a known tik addict who admitted to killing the young student. Rice's podcast series tries to find out why.
Our third highly commended entry came from Latasha Naidoo of Carte Blanche for her interesting expose on the Cajee brothers, two teenagers who started a crypto currency company and who are believed to have scammed investors out of billions of rands.
In the end, our winner won for his persistent and dogged work over many years. Several officials and board members, suspected of being involved in corruption amounting to millions of rands, have resigned after being exposed by this investigative journalist, the Special Investigative Unit has been called in to investigate, and has begun to take action against many of the corrupt officials and board members. For his never-say-die investigation, called Gaming the Lottery, our winner is GroundUp's Raymond Joseph.
Young journalist nominees: Tamsin Metelerkamp from the Daily Maverick and Murphy Nganga from the Weekend Argus.
The national awards ceremony will take place on 24 November 2022 and will be a hybrid event.