Winners of the 2022 Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism have been announced.
This year we see the top honours shared between Ray Joseph of GroundUp News for his exemplary and persistent investigation into the South African Lottery scandal, and Jeff Wicks of News24 for his formiddable investigation into the assassination of whistleblower Babita Deokaran.
“Joseph’s submission was the culmination of his multi-year investigation into corruption in the National Lottery, which came to a head last year when the CEO, the CFO and the board were fired and the Hawks launched a major investigation,” says award convener and Caxton Professor at WCJ, Anton Harber.
“Joseph’s single-handed resilience and determination has been exemplary, the kind of dogged persistence that is at the heart of great investigative reporting. One has to remember that when he first started telling us that there was rot at the heart of the lottery, there had been hardly any hint of it – and it was his patient persistence, with the backing of the small GroundUp newsroom, that brought it all tumbling out.
“Ray has produced a valuable database of lottery grants, which is available to everyone for further investigation. It was a self-generated story with major impact,” says Harber.
Wicks took on the story behind the assassination of whistleblower Babita Deokaran. His work was not just a fitting tribute to her bravery and principles, but a formidable investigation into the complex story behind it.
“Wicks and News24 can be commended for sticking with the story with a commitment and determination to see through what Deokaran had started, but also for ploughing through 60 000 emails, extensive phone accounts, records of 217 companies, ledgers, a report they were told did not exist, numerous interviews and visit to company addresses to show they were fake,” said Harber.
“What emerged was a picture of an elaborate and extensive extraction network in the health sector, presented with strong graphics. This has led to a full Hawks investigation and hopefully will soon lead to arrests. A fitting tribute to a martyr for the truth, let’s hope this work encourages others to support and encourage whistleblowers.”
Our runners-up are Aron Hyman, Graeme Hosken and Tankiso Makhetha from TimesLive for their riveting investigation into the zama zama turf wars taking place across western Johannesburg and Mogale City.
The TimesLive team investigated the murder of 16 people at the Mdlalose Tavern in Soweto and gave us the first inkling that this was the result of a conflict between two Basotho zama zama factions.
“This was a series of pieces which together gave us real insight into this phenomenon and the way it plays out both here and in Lesotho. Excellent digging of the story behind the news story,” said Harber.
Daily Maverick’s Tiara Walters received a special commendation for her series of stories titled ‘Battleground Antartica‘, a long-term investigation which took Walters to the Kremlin to find evidence that Russia was prospecting for oil and gas in the Antartic in contravention of international treaties, and using Cape Town harbour as a base.
She also showed how they were using sonic techniques which impacted on the protected species of the Southern Ocean. It was an international story, and it was an unexpected and unusual one that took substantial enterprise.