by Rofhiwa Madzena and Roxanne Joseph
A team of amaBhungane journalists walked away with the 2014 Taco Kuiper award for investigative journalism at the Johannesburg Rand Club earlier today.
Stefaans Brümmer, Sam Sole and Vinayak Bhardwaj of the Mail & Guardian’s investigative centre were recognised for their efforts in sifting through more than 12 000 pages of documents resulting in “The Nkandla Files,” published last July.
The team’s investigations show the irregular escalation of costs related to security upgrades on the personal residence of President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla. The investigation is based on documents accessed through a PAIA application (Promotion of Access to Information Act).
Professor Anton Harber, the convenor of the judging panel, and head of the Wits journalism department said: “This was undoubtedly the story of the year, in fact of the last five years, and maybe the next five. The presidential spokesperson said they were making a mountain out of a molehill, but in fact it was not them that were making a castle out of a kraal, or a palace out of a homestead, but they did reveal it. Few stories have had, and continue to have, such impact. It was work done by a formidable team.”
The runner-up spot was shared by teams from television show Carte Blanche and the Sunday Times for “Game of Geysers” (Joy Summer and Susan Comrie), and the “Dina Pule series” (Rob Rose, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter).
Guest speaker, Brant Houston, a Knight Fellow in Investigative Journalism, addressed guests before the awards were handed out. On the future of journalism, Houston said that “We are entering the golden age of journalism.” He attributed this to technological advances, quick communication, collaboration and networking and journalists working together.“This helps us to preserve our work and cover our backs. It helps us do what we love, which is truth-telling.”
This was the eighth installation of the annual awards in honour of the late journalist, Taco Kuiper, and carries a cash prize of R200 000 for the winner.