/ 30 October 2006

M&G wins top award for Oilgate reporting

The Mail & Guardian has again been rewarded for its coverage of the Oilgate scandal.

M&G journalists Stefaans Brümmer and Sam Sole, together with former staffer Wisani wa ka Ngobeni, share this year’s prestigious Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award with Personal Finance‘s Bruce Cameron, it was announced at a gala event at Vodaworld in Midrand on Sunday evening.

Brümmer told the M&G Online on Monday: “Our team feels honoured. But even more importantly, we are encouraged that this topic — the nexus between politics and money, and specifically the much under-reported issue of the abuse of state resources in aid of party funding — is recognised as one that is worth probing.”

The overall award includes prize money of R100 000.

The three M&G journalists also won the national print news award.

The judges said: “In journalism, specifically investigative journalism, the phrase ‘follow the money’ is a road sign to a story. In this case, it led to an exposé that can be regarded as a high-water mark in our recent history of journalism.

“Through ‘following the money’, a pattern of the abuse of state power in party interest was found. An interesting aspect of the story was the integration and synergy between published material and online documents. It was this integrated approach to the story that created bridges between various aspects of a story that otherwise looked unrelated. Corruption, political party funding, fronting, deceit and abuse of power were all part of the ingredients of the saga.

Legal harassment that led to the M&G being gagged raised serious concerns for media freedom in South Africa, the judges added. “The exposé was an example of courageous journalism with national and international consequences, comparable to the Watergate and Muldergate scandals. A new word has been added to our vocabulary: Oilgate.”

The M&G journalists and Cameron had already achieved success by winning their categories in the regional awards. On Sunday night they added the national finals to their success as well as sharing the grand prize.

Cartoonist Zapiro, who contributes cartoons to the M&G, M&G Online and the Sunday Times, among others, won the cartoons category for his work in the Sunday Times.

Other national winners were:

  • Steve Lawrence of the Star for best photography;
  • Elsabé Brits of Die Burger and Melanie Gosling of the Cape Times in the print feature category;
  • Tony Carnie of the Mercury for best columnist (with Sarie‘s Andre le Roux commended);
  • Mandla Khwela of Ikwezi Community Radio in the community media category;
  • Ncumisa Mafunda of South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Radio News for best radio feature;
  • Asanda Magaqa of SABC Radio News for best radio news;
  • Sandy McCowen of the SABC in the television general news category;
  • Ida Jooste of the SABC for best television feature;
  • Rafora Rangongo of the Sunday Times in the sport category; and
  • Cameron of Personal Finance in the financial and economic category.

Black consciousness leader Steve Biko was posthumously named this year’s Lifetime Achiever.

“He was a visionary whose thinking and philosophy is relevant today as it was then. It will continue to be relevant to future generations,” the judges said. “With courage and conviction he championed a movement which brought the political struggle back to life and changed the face of politics in this country.”

The Vodacom Lifetime Achiever Award is given to a person who has made a valuable contribution to journalism. “The person honoured was certainly not a news hound, but he was part of the soul of the publications for which he wrote. He was the soul of the country,” the judges said.

“Writing under a pseudonym, and sometimes through his friends, he published numerous articles. His banning order meant he could not be quoted or published, hence the pseudonym. His writing contributed to political and social dialogue.

“Remembering his life today should be a call to action. We cannot be spectators in a country which is, in some aspects, on fire. There is much work to be done.”