AmaBhungane clinches Taco Kuiper award for Nkandla files

President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home as pictured in October 2012. (Cornel van Heerden, Gallo)

President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home as pictured in October 2012. (Cornel van Heerden, Gallo)

The Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism, amaBhungane, has won the 2014 Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism for its investigation into the upgrades at Nkandla.

The story in question, titled The Nkandla Files, revealed the details of more than 12 000 pages of documentation obtained using access to information laws. The investigation uncovered the scale of the cost escalation, cow-towing and maladministration that accompanied the upgrades into President Jacob Zuma's homestead.

The Sunday Times and Carte Blanche shared the runner-up prize.

Amabhungane was also shortlisted for its investigation into PetroSA, titled Oilgate 2. Niren Tolsi and Paul Botes were short-shortlisted for their investigation into the plight of the Marikana families.

The award was awarded to Stefaans Brümmer, Sam Sole and Vinayak Bhardwaj.

Brummer said this was merely because the three represented the team, and that the series of stories was a "team effort".

"Three names were put forward but it was truly a team effort, down to our interns. The lesson this teaches us all is about sticking with the story and playing the long game.
These stories came about after lengthy process, involving a Paia application, lodged about two years ago, that finally bore fruit.

"We had to overcome attempts, like other journalists, by the state over what the state claimed was a security issue. We used the law to debunk those claims by the state. It took a lot of hard work, patience and perseverance.

"It shows that you don’t have to back down in the face of what the state says. There is something higher than the state, and that is the law," said Brummer.

Mail & Guardian editor-in-chief Chris Roper said: "This is a just recognition of how pivotal the Nkandla story is for our nation and of the amazing work that the Amabhungane team does.

"This a story the M&G has owned since 2009 when the late Mandy Rossouw broke it and is testament to the kind of tenacity that great investigative journalists need to bring big stories to a conclusion."

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