Our investigators scoop top award

17 April 2011 - 03:04 By Sunday Times

The Sunday Times won the coveted 2010 Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism on Friday.

Reporters Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter took the honours for their exposé, published last August, of police commissioner General Bheki Cele's dodgy R500-million lease for new headquarters.

The Sunday Times's sister newspaper, The Times, was also honoured, with Sipho Masondo being named the runner-up for his work on acid mine drainage.

The series of reports on Cele led to an investigation by public protector Thuli Madonsela. In February, Madonsela released a scathing report in which she found Cele guilty of "improper, unlawful" conduct that "amounted to maladministration".

On August 4, just three days after the Sunday Times exposed the dodgy lease, Wa Afrika was arrested in dramatic fashion at the newspaper's office in Johannesburg on what the police said were charges of forgery and uttering. The charges have been withdrawn.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe conceded in an interview - published on page 27 of this edition - that no journalist should be arrested for exposing corruption.

Mantashe said of the media's right to report on corruption: "There's nobody who will be arrested because you disclose corruption." Asked, "Isn't arresting even one reporter bad enough?" Mantashe replied: "Okay, let me agree with you on that."

Editor Ray Hartley said: "We are extremely proud of Mzilikazi and Stephan, who have demonstrated the importance of fearless, independent investigative journalism in exposing a grotesque abuse of power."

The Taco Kuiper judges said: "This was an extraordinary account of how the police commissioner had influenced a R500-million lease deal with businessman Roux Shabangu without a proper tender process ... Despite strong reactions from the authorities, the newspaper was vindicated ... and, as we speak, the positions of the police commissioner and the minister of public works are up for debate."