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“Tall Stories” writer wins investigative journalism award

- Wits University

Winner of richest investigative journalism award announced.

Pieter-Louis Myburgh from Afrikaans Sunday newspaper, Rapport, won this year’s Taco Kuiper investigative journalism award.

Myburgh, who exposed the story that the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) had spent R600 million on railway carriages that were too tall for the SA railway network, won the R200 000 in prize money for the richest award for investigative journalism in South Africa.
“This was an exemplar of great investigative journalism, based on good sources, solid documentation, guts, and determination,” said Caxton Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Wits University, Anton Harber, who handed out the prize on Friday, 18 March.
Myburgh got the story from a tip-off and followed up with investigative work that led him to publish his first story exposing the incompatibility of the trains to the SA rail network.
“When the story was denied, Myburgh had cleverly kept the evidence up his sleeve to force an admission that there had been a blunder of massive proportions.  The story had an immediate impact, in bringing change to Prasa, and long-term repercussions in ensuring that crooks and frauds are brought to book,” said Harber.
Siphe Macanda of the Eastern Cape newspaper, Daily Dispatch, was the runner up for his article on the Siyenza Toilet Scandal.
Macanda exposed the tender scandal in which family members of national ANC leaders elbowed their way into an R631-million toilet tender. The story resulted in the contract being canceled, saving R400-million.
The third finalist for this year’s competition was the team from the online title, the Daily Maverick; Diana Neille, Richard Poplak, Shaun Swingler and Sumeya Gasa of Daily Maverick, for their story Chronicle for Casualties of Cola.
The Taco Kuiper awards has been running for the past 10 years. This year’s competition attracted 43 entries of which 13 came from television-based media; three from radio; two from websites and the rest from newspapers.
“It was notable that the amounts of money involved in financial scandals (reported on in the entries0 seems to have gone from millions to billions. If you add up the amounts of which have been the subject of investigation in this year’s entries, it totals trillions of rands, literally – a sign of the escalation of not just the extent but the scale of abuse of public funds,” said Harber.