Non-governmental organisation’s are often overlooked and underreported on because they are seen as the good guys.
Wits Vuvuzela sat down with Simba Tevera who is featured on the Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans list. This list features young achievers who are making an impact in civil society, education and sports, to name a few. Simba is an Honours student majoring in Psychology. He describes himself as a hard working person who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
The Mandela Rhodes Scholar is nominated in the sports category and tells Wits Vuvuzela that he feels quite privileged to be among amazing individuals that are shaping the country.
“I think for me it reaffirms that everything is possible if you set your mind to it, but you’ve got to believe in yourself. I think for me it’s important to be associated with these people, some of these people are doing phenomenal things, so I think for me it’s a call to responsibility.”
When asked about why he started Karate, Tevera gloated and said “It’s a funny story because when I was young I was so overweight and sport wasn’t my thing.”
It was this that led his mother to push Simba to take Karate, a decision he thanks his mother for.
“When I got to Wits I fell in love with their karate society. The instructors are amazing, the team is strong and Wits is one of the best Karate teams in South Africa.”
With three years under his belt, Tevera has been a recipient of many Karate awards.
He holds 11 gold medals, six silver and three bronze. He has also received his Half and Full Colours in Karate, USSA University Sport Karate Champion and has been the Japanese Karate Associate National Champion for South Africa for three years.
While holding many awards, Simba has been selected for the South African National team and is set to compete in the Africa Cup in September this year, an experience he describes as ‘overwhelming’.
“I’m putting in the training and the effort, my team believes in me and I’ve got an amazing instructor Sensei JP. He pushes me and the team pushes me, so I’m privileged. I can’t believe it.” he said.
Tevera hopes his nomination will make a positive impact and influence the youth to go for everything they set their minds to.
“I believe sport plays a great role in the youth. In Karate for example, we learn morals around character, etiquette, effort, sincerity, self-control and respect. So I really think sports can help develop the youth and get people believing in themselves.”
Nkandla is much more than just a story about a very, very expensive house, according to investigative journalist Sam Sole, one of the members of the Mail & Guardian’s amaBhungane team.
Sole, Lionel Faull and Craig McKunne, three of the journalists who helped uncover and develop the “creation of a presidential palace” in 2012, spoke on Monday at the annual Power Reporting conference about their work on the story dating back to 2009.
Nkandla documents ‘repeated gumpf’
The team spent weeks compiling the data they had received, after months of filing and pushing for the promotion of access to information act (PAIA). After being turned down and appealing several times, they were eventually handed 42 lever arch files, containing 12 000 pages of documents, which they had to copy through a single scanner. The team, comprising of 8 people, split the workload and spent an entire weekend scanning.
Sole said that the team did not know how long they had to deal with the information provided. “We got an exclusive, but in a story that is embarrassing to government, they [the government] tend to make press statements and spoil the exclusive.”
Faull explained that a lot of the information was duplicated. “It was repeated ‘gumpf’, a tactic to slow us down and make it hard.”
The use of data journalism, combined with extensive probing and investigation revealed how much Zuma should have paid for the three private houses he started to build at the time of security upgrades (R19.5 million in total), as well as the fact that he would never have been able to afford it. It also allowed the team to create an “Nkandla phonebook”, which led them to useful contacts, some of whom were willing to speak.
The delegates who attended the session were from predominantly from other African countries and found the team’s investigation “impressive”, considering the amount of work it took to get the information.
There are very few investigative journalists around the continent, according to Panic Malawo Chifulya of the Zambia Daily Mail. “It is too risky,” she told Wits Vuvuzela. “We are all just all-rounders, covering a bit of everything.”
One of her colleagues, Rebecca Chileshe, explained that no editor would ever allow their journalists to conduct such an in-depth investigation, because they would “be the ones to lose their jobs”.
Chileshe spoke of a story she had done, which, if published, would embarrass the Zambian government. Her newspaper refused to publish the story and in the end, it was picked up by a smaller, private media house. According to her, this is one of many examples where stories have been swept under the carpet out of fear.
Margaret Samulela, of the same newspaper, also explained that such large legal costs would make it impossible to do the same type of story in Zambia and other such countries. “But this is happening in our country, it’s just that journalists aren’t able to investigate,” she said.
Many journalists have suffered whilst reporting or working in countries with laws that gag the media. Investigative journalism has cost many journalists their lives in the pursuit of informing the public.
It is the responsibility of the media to pull focus to issues plaguing the society – issues the public should be interested in – however this does not mean the journalist is not a person, someone with friends and a family
Anton Harber, Caxton professor of Journalism at Wits University, said one should take all the necessary precautions and learn as much as possible about apotentially dangerous story before immersing themselves in it.
“The biggest danger is ignorance. Be careful and understand a situation in as much detail as possible,” Harber said.
“No story is worth a life.”
According to Harber, in cases where a journalist might be arrested there are international networks that might responde with help. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the news organisation toprotect the journalist. A news organisation will almost always support the journalist “if a story is important enough”.
Harber was himself arrested in South Africa while the editor of the Weekly Mail, now known as the Mail & Guardian. In the course of pursuing an investigation into the apartheid government, the paper was caught bugging a hotel room. The bug was discovered before any incriminating evidence had been recorded.
“Ethically it was wrong but I[only] regret getting caught,” Harber said.
Harber said if he faced the same situation again he would be “extremely hesitant”.
Ron Nixon, an investigative journalist for the New York Times, said the best way for investigative journalists to remain safe is to always let someone know where you are and always work in teams or pairs.
“Be aware of your surroundings and always let people know where you are. Including embassies as well. In case anything goes wrong,” he said.
Many journalists prefer to work alone because they’re after scoops. Nixon advises against this the information isn’t worth the risk of working without a safety net.
“Sometimes the information you are getting is not that exclusive.”
It is then up to the journalist to make an individual decision to either report the story, and possibly be first, or to be safe.