Beeld and Die Burger journalists Adriaan Basson and Carien du Plessis
have scooped South Africa’s biggest ever print journalism award – the
Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism, writes Michael Tsingo.

The pair won R200 000 for a 2006 series of stories implicating former
prisons chief Linda Mti in fraudulent transactions involving R1.8m. The
reports led to Mti’s resignation and the subsequent launch of
investigations by the Public Service Commission.

“This is a wonderful accolade from the industry,” said Basson. “It
happened because of very good cooperation between me and Carien. We
were driven by sticking to the truth. There is no use to be in a
democracy if we do not safeguard it, you just got to go.”

The award for runner-up was shared by Mail & Guardian and Sunday
Tribune journalists. The prize was due to amount to R100 000, but at
the April 26 ceremony in Johannesburg Supreme Court Judge Tom Cloete
announced to applause that the Valley Trust had decided that the
runners-up would not have to share the R100 000 originally allocated.
They would each get that amount.

The Mail & Guardian series “A murder most foul” explored the
relationship between national police commissioner Jackie Selebi,
murdered businessman Brett Kebble and the manaccused of his murder,
alleged crime boss Glenn Agglioti. The series was produced by Zukile
Majova, Stephen Patrick “Sam” Sole, Nicholas Dawes and Stefaans Brummer.

KwaZulu-Natal based Sunday Tribune’s veteran journalist Fred Kockott
and Sibusiso Ngalwa were honoured for their “Ngunigate” series. The
series exposed KZN abuse of the national Nguni cattle herd and the
Ithala Finance Development Corporation. This investigation prompted the
Standing Commission on Public accounts to ask the MEC of agriculture to
investigate the misappropriation of fund in the department.

Justice Malala, one of the judges, said about the decision to name two
runners up: “All entries were of such a high standard. The Mail and
Guardian team’s angle was strong and ground breaking while the Tribune
journalists were working every day in a small and difficult environment
faced by politicians. We wanted to make an example.”

Asked about the team’s inspiration and the meaning of the award, the
Mail & Guardian’s Sole said: “The Kebble murder was an
investigation waiting to happen. The police report of a botched
hijacking in itself was suspicious. I am very happy to be chosen but it
is not for us but for the industry. Hopefully, it will make more
journalists demand investigative journalism in their respective

Kockott said: “I want to thank Sunday Tribune itself for providing the
time and space to pursue the story. I should insist however that it was
through the institutions of government that we got this story. They
raised questions in parliament and committees”.

Before announcing the winners, Caxton professor of journalism at Wits
University, Anton Harber said the entries that the judges received left
the panel feeling positive about investigative journalism in South

“Our task as adjudicators was to find a distinguished example of
investigative journalism in print media,” said Harber. “We looked for
the reach and impact – to what extent did the report show tenacity and
courage in risk and often dangerous investigations.”

Key note speaker at the ceremony Gavin MacFadyen, director of the
London-based Centre for Investigative Journalism, said the award was
bigger than any available in London. “It is an amazing first time.”

MacFadyen added: “The most important thing is to work – take the money
when you find it and do the work. If you care, lots of your readers are
gonna care too.”

Chairman of the valley trust Dion de Beer said: “We are very proud of
today, in honour of our friend Taco Kuiper. This award is his
brainchild. He only left us the instructions. This is what we are
doing, we encourage the future. Our involvement is not short term as we
have no corporate ambition. Our involvement includes training,
bursaries and grants to assist journalists.”

Read more about the the Judging Process and Awarding Ceremony Keynote Speech .

Also see the gallery .