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Mon Dec 05 18:38:21 SAST 2016

We salute all the 'damn, interfering journalists'

The Times Editorial | 2016-04-04 00:18:25.0

At a recent celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes, the US awards that honour excellence in journalism and the arts, US Representative John Lewis challenged journalists to shake up the status quo.

"You must not give up," an impassioned Lewis told his audience. "You must hold on. Tell the truth. Report the truth. Disturb the order of things. Find a way to get in the way and make a little noise with your pens, your pencils, your cameras."

It's a challenge that South African journalists should take up as well.

We should follow the example of muckrakers such as late journalist Mandy Rossouw, who in 2009 revealed that President Jacob Zuma was expanding his remote family homestead at Nkandla, in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

When she wrote those first articles, the price tag for the project stood at R65-million.

By the time Public Protector Thuli Madonsela filed her report the figure was close on R250-million.

Were it not for Rossouw's initial curiosity about the project, aroused while she was interviewing the villagers of Nkandla about what it was like to have a president as a neighbour, South Africa might not have been any the wiser about the millions of rands of taxpayers' money being spent on the president's private home.

Zuma would perhaps not now be facing the backlash and calls for his resignation or "recall".

Perhaps we would not have had the opportunity to witness the strength of our democracy and its constitution through the independence of our judiciary.

So, although the political parties are claiming victory in bringing Zuma to account, let's also acknowledge the journalists who followed up on Rossouw's exclusive exposé, refused to give up, reported the truth, disturbed the order of things and found a way to get in the way.

We salute you.

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