The 2007 Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism – the largest
South African journalism prize – has gone to three reporters from the
Daily Dispatch for their expose of hundreds of neo-natal deaths at
Frere Hospital, according to a media release.

The judges described the work of Brett Horner, Chandre Prince and Ntando Makhubu  as “a model investigation of excellent and powerful journalism”. The three reporters’ “imagination, creativity” and use of “some unusual methodology” such as hidden cameras produced overpowering evidence of neglect, mismanagement and malpractice at the East London hospital.

The series of stories sparked a national debate on the state of the health system in general and on neonatal care in particular and led to the dismissal of the deputy health minister for all the wrong reasons. 

Despite fierce criticism from the highest offices the story not only led to considerable improvements for the community it was about but had an enormous impact on the country . It was in the words of the judges “a testament to the power and value of the best kind of journalism”.

The three reporters shared R200 000.

Also recognized was the Mail & Guardian team for its exposure of Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi’s dubious associations with the underworld. The judges described the team’s persistent investigations into the close link between one of the most powerful men in government and a number of criminal syndicates as “remarkable for its doggedness and determination”. It was a story that “required courage and commitment” and that “had and continues to have major social and political impact”, the judges declared.

The team of seven shares the second prize of R100 000.

Judges praised the range of investigative work they received, with big and small newsrooms across the country raising crucial political, social and ethical issues. “Nobody can accuse our newspapers of cowardice,” said Professor Anton Harber, convenor of the judging panel. “They are bold, they are challenging, and they frequently stick their necks out.”

The Taco Kuiper Award is the result of a partnership between the Valley Trust and the Wits Journalism Programme’s Investigative Journalism Workshop. While the Taco Kuiper Award was initially launched as an award for investigative print media only it will be extended to all media – print, broadcast and online – from next year onward.