The Panel of Adjudicators' Speech.

Taco Kuiper Awards April 2007

Speaker: Anton Harber

On behalf of the panel of adjudicators:

The entries, as a whole, left us feeling positive about investigative
journalism in this country. We received an excellent range of entries,
covering a broad sweep of topics and from publications that went from
major national papers to smaller, local ones. It is most striking that
there are at least three full-time investigative teams on South African
papers, probably more than ever. And this does not take into account
those who squeeze their investigative work in between other reporting
tasks, or those working in television. Investigative journalism, which
we all know to be an essential element of a vibrant democracy, is
blooming. And we hope that this award that we are giving today for the
first time, will water the plant.

We have also set up the Taco Kuiper Investigative Journalism Fund,
which aims to give financial support to planned investigative projects.
Last week, we approved the first grant in this fund and are open for
further applications. We will particularly favour any investigations
into what happened to our cricket team.

I want to start by revealing our shortlist. The five entries which made
it into the final round of our deliberations were as follows (in no
particular order):

1. Barry Sergeant for his best-selling book “Brett Kebble: The Inside Story”
2. The Mail & Guardian team for the Brett
Kebble/Jackie Selebi story. The team consists of Sam Sole, Stefaans
Brummer, Nic Dawes and Zukile Majova
3. Fred Kockott and Sibusiso Ngalwa of the Sunday Tribune for “Ngunigate: On the horns of a dilemma”.
4. Adriaan Basson and Carien du Plessis of Beeld for “Tronskandaal”.
5. Andreas Stelzer of Noseweek for “The Khalid Rashid Affair”.

The test for investigative journalism must be this: can those who are
abusing power and authority rest easily at night. If they are, then we
are failing to keep a close enough tab on them. I can say clearly,
having surveyed the entries for 2006, that those who might have had
their fingers in the arms deal till, the Kebble pie or similar
shenanigans must be nervous about the possibility of exposure, and for
that we can thank our investigative journalists.

Our brief as adjudicators was to find a distinguished example of
investigative journalism in the print media. As you can tell from the
shortlist, this was no easy task. In considering the entries, we
thought it relevant to weigh up these critical factors:

– Was this truly an investigation? And by this we mean, to what extent
did the reporters have to show initiative and enterprise beyond the
normal call of daily reporting?

– Did the report show tenacity and courage? We know that investigations
are often difficult, lengthy, time-consuming and risky, even dangerous.
Where this was demanded, did the journalists have it?

– Did the story break new ground? It was not just that we wanted to
break news, because often investigative reporters tackle running
stories or follow up on breaking news. The question we asked was, did
they make significant breakthroughs in the story?

– The burden of proof is clearly a crucial aspect. Did the story stand
up to scrutiny? Were any unusual and notable steps taken to gather or
verify evidence? How solid were the sources? We were concerned as a
panel that some stories did seem to rely extensively on unnamed
sources. We would like to see more contextualization of unnameable
sources to add credibility.

– What was the impact and reach of the story? We looked for examples
where stories caught the attention of the public and the authorities,
This does not mean it has to be a national story. Good local or
provincial story is also highly valued. But they are ones that hit hard
and hit home.

– Finally, and by no means the least important was the quality of
writing, editing and presentation. We have a concern on the judging
panel that investigative stories are often damaged by being presented
in a way that is hard to read, long grey treatises full of important
detail but hard to digest. We seek to encourage tight and effective
editing to add to the story’s impact.

We have formed a special nominating panel, an unusual form of our
process: These four people are commissioned to watch the media
throughout the year and make nominations, ensuring that we identify and
consider all distinguished examples of investigative journalism. They
are Mervyn Rees, Vuyo Mvoko, Jimi Matthews and Prof Lizette Rabe.

Our judges were: Judge Tom Cloete, who you have met today, Charlayne
Hunter-Gault, Justice Malala and myself [Speaker – Anton Harber].

And it is on their behalf that I now speak.

It is my honour and privilege this afternoon to announce the winner of
the Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism. I am going to ask
Judge Tom Cloete of the Valley Trust to join me to make the

Let’s start with second place, a prize of R100 000. This position was shared by two excellent entries:

1. The Mail & Guardian team for the Brett
Kebble/Jackie Selebi story. The team consists of Sam Sole, Stefaans
Brummer, Nic Dawes and Zukile Majova

1. Fred Krockott and Sibusiso Ngalwa of the Sunday Tribune for “Ngunigate: On the horns of a dilemma”.

The Mail & Guardian’s may not have broken the Brett Kebble story,
but they certainly broke important new ground when they showed the
links between his dubious gangster friends and the Commissioner of
Police. They showed great courage in taking on some very powerful
people, and their story has held up under intense scrutiny. It is a
story which still demands answers from the government.

The Sunday Tribune’s Ngunigate was sparked by a tip-off, but it took
great persistence and thoroughness to nail down the evidence. It was a
story of more local impact than the others, but no less important and
impactful for that. It exposed gross patronage, with KZN politicians
abusing the national Nguni cattle herd and the Ithala Finance
Development Corporation for their own benefit. The KZN premier was
forced to return the cattle given to his wife and the provincial
government was forced to account for the way they were using public
resources. It was hard-hitting, important and a worthy winner.

And now for the winner of the Taco Kuiper Prize for 2006, for a prize
of R200 000. The winner is Adriaan Basson and Carien du Plessis of
Beeld and Die Burger for “Tronskandaal”.

Beeld newly-established investigative team, working with sister paper
Die Burger, conducted a model investigation. They picked up a snippet
at a parliamentary portfolio committee hearing about a dubious
multimillion rand tender and pursued it relentlessly over ten months,
conducting scores of interviews and ploughing through masses of
documentation. It took tenacity and courage, as they were often
threatened with court action. They first found a link between the
Commissioner of Prisons and the company which won the tender, and then
– in a remarkable piece of enterprise – had an independent computer
expert show that the tender document had been written by the company
which won it. This is the stuff of powerful, thorough and
ground-breaking reporting. The story was tightly edited, concise and
strongly presented, giving it strong and immediate impact. The evidence
presented was solid and irrefutable, with all sources named. They
topped it off with a final report revealing that the Prison’s Chief
Financial Officer, a key figure in granting the tenders, was totally
unqualified for his post. The story led to the early departure of both
the Commissioner and the CFO. It is a report that would serve well as a
case study for aspirant investigators.

If this is the standard of reporting we can expect to continue, then we
can rest assured that our democracy is strengthened by the fact that
those who abuse power and authority will know that they face such
intense scrutiny and such devastating exposure.

Good investigative journalism is the piston in the engine of accountability, and the engine is firing.

While I make some final thanks, I would like to ask if glasses could be filled for a closing toast.

Thanks: Firstly, to the director of our Investigative Journalism
Workshop, Birgit Schwarz, who has laboured tirelessly to get us through
these awards. [To] the judges and nominators, for their solid and
patient work. [To] Shirona Patel of Wits Marketing and Communications.
[To] our partners and supporters, particularly the Valley Trust. [To]
our guest speaker, Gavin MacFadyen for his support and for his
inspiring words.

Let me end with a toast. Please raise your glasses to:Taco Kuiper,
whose generosity and foresight has created these fine awards.To those
visionary editors whose support make these investigations possible, and
for tolerating pesky reporters who cause them trouble and give them
headaches.To the finest tool of our investigative journalists: this
country’s fine constitution, which sets in stone the principles of
accountability and transparency and media freedom so important to our
work. And of course, finally, to our winners.