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Taco Kuiper award winners announced

- Wits Communications

The story of how over 94 mentally ill patients died after being moved to unregistered facilities has won the Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism.

The award - and R200 000 - went to Suzanne Venter of Rapport for her Life Esidimeni story, which began with a tip-off on Facebook and which has been the subject of an official inquiry by the Health Ombudsman.

At the awards ceremony held today, Friday, 24 March 2017 in Johannesburg, the acting convenor of judges for 2017, Justice Malala, described the winning entry:

“When Suzanne Venter first confronted former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu with this story she was told that ‘all this is just hearsay’ and she was kicked out of the MEC’s office. Venter stayed with the story for months, brought us the human side of it while exposing the corruption and insensitivity of our political leaders as they refused to accept what was happening.” 

The runner-up, who takes home R100 000, was a Sunday Times story by Thanduxolo Jika, Sabelo Skiti and Qaanitah Hunter about state capture. Their story delved into the murky offering of ministerial positions to Mcebisi Jonas and others, allegedly by the Gupta family. The investigation goes on to draw links between several ministers’ visits to Dubai, Saxonwold and other places.

According to Malala, “This was a solid, deep investigation into an ongoing and pivotal South African story.”

Malala lauded all entries and concluded: “Many of the stories had incredible results. Commissions of inquiry were instituted, political heads rolled and fraudulent careers were stopped in their tracks. This is what Tack Kuiper aimed for in his endowment of the investigative journalism award.”

The keynote address was delivered by Ben Bradlee Jnr who was Assistant Managing Editor for investigations during the Boston Globe’s exposé of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal in 2001/2. It was a pains­taking two-year investigation that came to a head in 2003, when the team won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Journalism. This triumph of careful, meticulous and brave investigative reporting was dramatised in the film Spotlight.

About Taco Kuiper: Taco Kuiper was a highly successful South African publisher who left a significant part of his estate to the promotion of investigative journalism.  He believed that exposing matters of public concern which those scrutinized would not want to see disclosed was an important enterprise. It was for this reason that Kuiper, shortly before his death in September 2004, set up a fund for investigative journalism within The Valley Trust. The Trust has partnered with the Wits Journalism Programme to administer the Taco Kuiper Award.