Winners topped 29 entries that lifted the lid on the hidden goings-on in the public and private sectors, report Sfundo Parakozov and Sbongile Molambo 

Leslie Jamieson of The Valley Trust, joint winner Ray Joseph and Taco Kuiper Award convenor of judges, Anton Harber at the award ceremony on April 21, 2023. Photo: Sbongile Molambo

A News24 investigation into the assassination of whistleblower Babita Deokaran and a Groundup expose of corruption at the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) are joint winners of the 2023 Taco Kuiper Investigative Journalism Award.

In the documentary, Silenced, Jeff Wicks details how he dug through 60 000 Gauteng health department emails, phone records and company ledgers to continue the work Deokaran had started exposing corruption at Tembisa Hospital, before she was assassinated in August 2021.  

Ray Joseph’s winning entry on the corrupt dealings at the NLC was the latest instalment in an investigation he started several years ago, and that he has tenaciously stuck to, which resulted in the firing of the Commission’s CEO, CFO and board in 2022. 

The 17th edition of the Taco Kuiper Award highlighted the importance of “ensuring the accountability that is the foundation of good governance, democracy and economic prosperity” and had “seen journalists tackle issues at every level of our society”, said Anton Harber, the convenor of the award, at the ceremony held at the Wits Club on April 21. 

The prestigious award, in which the joint winners shared R240 000 and the runners-up got R60 000, are a collaborative effort by the Wits Centre for journalism (WCJ) and The Valley Trust (the fund created by Taco Kuiper before his death in 2004).  

News24 investigative journalist, Jeff Wicks, accepts his award at the Taco Kuiper investigative journalism award. Photo: Sbongile Molambo

Harber said there were 29 entries, which came from 13 different outlets, including an entry from Wits Vuvuzela by student journalist Tannur Anders, now an intern for news agency Thomson Reuters. 

Wicks told Wits Vuvuzela that the Deokaran project was very challenging as it required an incredible amount of data and processing. “I’m very happy to have been honored, especially considering the shortlist and I hope it’s a tribute to the life of Babita Deokaran, who sacrificed herself to fight against corruption.”  

Joseph said investigating the lottery commission took over six years of his life. “This was a dangerous project. I was reported to the State Security Agency, court cases were launched [against me] and my family was attacked. So, to describe this win, I would say it’s wonderful.” 

The TimesLive team of Tankiso Makhetha, Graeme Hoskens and Aaron Hyman secured the runner-up position for their investigation into the murder of 16 people at the Mdlalose Tavern in Soweto.

“The significance of WCJ’s collaboration with The Valley Trust is that they brought the money to the table and their generosity is making this [event] happen”, said Harber, who also announced his retirement from running the award after 17 years.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Joint winners Ray Joseph and Jeff Wicks with The Valley Trust’s Leslie Jamieson and award judge, Anton Harber, at the Wits Club on April 21, 2023. Photo: Sbongile Molambo