South Africa’s richest journalism prize has been launched at Wits University,
and is backed by a fund to support investigative journalism, write  Michael Tsingo and Sindisiwe Kubeka.



At the launch (from left): Judge
Tom Cloete and Dion de Beer of the
Valley Trust, Prof Anton Harber &
Birgit Schwarz of Wits.

The award and fund is named after Taco
Kuiper, a successful South African publisher and business analyst with a
passion for investigative journalism. Shortly before he died of a brain tumour
in September 2004, he set up the Valley Trust to manage his estate, part of
which will be devoted to advancing investigative journalism in South Africa.

The Valley Trust sought the assistance of the
Wits journalism programme in managing the Taco Kuiper Award and Funds.

“We chose to partner with Wits University
because of its reputation,” said one of the trustees, Judge Tom Cloete, at the
launch of the scheme on February 8.

The Wits programme already has a special unit
for investigative journalism, the Investigative Journalism Workshop, which was
created in 2005 to train journalists in the field.

The Taco Kuiper Award will offer an annual prize
of R200 000 to the best example of investigative journalism in print media and
R100 000 as a second prize.  The fund
will provide grants of between R10 000 and R150 000 every year to support investigative

“We are launching the biggest award in the
history of print media today,” said Anton Harber, the Caxton professor of
journalism at Wits.

According to Harber, it is not only the
scale of the award which makes it significant but also its freedom from commercial

“Because this [the award and funds] comes
from a non-commercial sponsor, it means that it is not subject to [the]
inevitable demands of commercial awards. And that is enormously important,”
says Harber.

The award will be awarded to work published
in newspapers, magazines or book form – any print format.

The award’s nomination process is also
unique. Editors may nominate two entries from their newsrooms, and there will
also be a separate nomination panel who are asked to find worthy examples of
investigative journalism to put forward.  Individuals may draw the attention of a member
of the nomination panel to their work in cases, for instance, where they feel
their editors have unfairly failed to consider their work.

The judges are Judge Tom Cloete, Harber, former
ThisDay editor Justice Malala and former CNN correspondent Charlayne
Hunter-Gault.  The nomination panel has
not yet been named.

Harber said the fund would support projects
that are not likely “to see the light of the day without this funding [and]
they have to be issues of importance to contemporary South Africa”.

Further details are available on this website by clicking here.