Monday, March 29, 2010

Rob Rose is 2009 Taco Kuiper award winner

From THE winner of the prestigious 2009 Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative journalism is Rob Rose from the Financial Mail/Sunday Times. The runners up are producer Susan Puren and presenter Devi Sankaree Govender from investigative program Carte Blanche, writes Ruona Agbroko for

Rose’s series “South Africa’s Madoff” exposed fraudster Barry Tannenbaum who swindled South Africa’s business elite of millions. Puren and Govender’s Chicken Run about a chicken-breeding operation snowballed into a major scandal involving animal cruelty and a politician obtaining international funding under false pretences at the expense of a local community.

Rose won R200 000 for emerging tops of 44 entries from 16 media outlets while Puren and Govender scoop R100 000 as runners-up.

The judges said: “Financial journalists have been criticised in the last couple of years for the stories they missed. It is near impossible to expose an apparently respectable business person in South Africa without solid information. Painstakingly checking and double-checking the valuable detail of the intricate story, Rose came through with a really good tale, carefully pieced together and well told, exposing major deception in the country’s financial circles. Tannenbaum might have fooled some of South Africa’s best-known investors, but not Rose.”

On Chicken Run, the judges said: “The story appears at first to be about a chicken-breeding operation run with cruelty and disregard for health laws, which then evolved into something bigger when a former MEC was caught being dishonest, leading to the discovery that he has raised international donor money under false pretences at the expense of a local community.

“Carte Blanche took a seemingly little story and made it big. The journalists worked relentlessly hard and the end result was multi-layered, well-crafted and well told exposé. The judges made special mention of Govender’s excellent interviewing and presentation skills which were so central to the total unravelling of this story.”

The ceremony was held at the Rand Club, Johannesburg on Friday March 26, 2010.

“I didn’t feel like I deserved it,” Rose said minutes after he was announced winner. “There were some great stories so this is a pleasant surprise,” he added.

Puren told Vuvuzela she initially doubted the source who leaked the story that would become Chicken Run; “I met him on a dark cold night and he gave me this DVD...I was seriously in doubt. But as a journalist you have to listen to your instinct.”

Govender said the impact of the story has brought some downsides; “in fact, we came with our lawyers here today; they have been sent sms messages to newspapers that they will sue,” she laughed.

According to Prof. Anton Harber, Caxton professor of Journalism and Media Studies and Director of the Wits Journalism Programme, this year’s award received entries for the first time from 7 media organisations including SABC, Radio 704, Business Times and SAKE 24.

“Entries dealt not just with the political. Not only politicians were being held to account, but all those holding office of some sort. Every one of the top entries had a major impact on the world around it,” Harber continued.

However, he said that judges were concerned that “Radio, the country’s largest medium was underrepresented in the quality and quantity of work submitted.”

The ceremony was addressed by Ben Leapman, Deputy News Editor of The Sunday Telegraph in London, UK. Leapman investigated MP’s expenses over five years ago, doggedly using the UK’s Freedom of Information Act to force the facts out of the Government.

“It has been a pleasure to witness firsthand the quality of investigative journalism that is being rewarded here today. Clearly, journalists are upholding the trust of the people in South Africa”, Leapman told

Now in its fourth year, the Taco Kuiper Award is a joint initiative by The Valley Trust and the Wits Journalism programme to recognise outstanding work in investigative journalism in South Africa. The award was launched in 2007 in honour of the late business journalist and publisher Taco Kuiper, who shortly before his death in 2005, set up the Valley Trust.

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 March 2010 )

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