Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and suspended ANC Youth League President Julius Malema have been jointly named the National Press Club-Aon South Africa Newsmakers of the Year for 2011.
National Press Club Chairperson, Yusuf Abramjee, says the two newsmakers dominated the media environment in 2011 � making the headlines more often than not.
“In 2011 Madonsela was the strongest voice for good governance that rights administrative wrongs. Her findings on the controversial leasing of buildings for the South African Police Service saw dramatic action being taken – President Jacob Zuma fired two ministers � those of Public Works and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The National Commissioner of Police was also suspended as a result.
“Madonsela’s accessibility to the media is a shining example of a modern-day communicator. The impact of her work is priceless, seen in the context of South Africa � both in the private and public sector � where corruption and maladministration is rife. Her strong leadership, accompanied by decisive actions, assist greatly in leading the country to a corrupt-free society,” says Abramjee.
“Madonsela is increasingly being seen as the guardian of our rights. Together with Malema, she made the headlines � but for different reasons,” he says.
“Like him or loathe him, Malema made headlines in 2011 for many reasons. His antics, controversial statements and appearances dominated the local agenda throughout the year. More recently, his suspension from the ANC Youth League and the ANC was and continues to be a talking point. He also made international headlines from time to time, particularly around the issue of assisting the people of Botswana to regain their freedom and the nationalisation debate, to mention a few.
“Never before has a nation been so gripped, divided or united by news made by one individual.
The decision to jointly name Madonsela and Malema was conveyed to them.
Madonsela has welcomed it saying she was humbled.
“This came as a surprise and I thank the National Press Club for giving recognition to the team that I lead. It ensures that the people of South Africa get justice when they have been unfairly treated by government and also helps government to improve its service delivery and governance,” says Madonsela.
“We are not participating in any of these things,” says youth league spokesman Floyd Shivambu.
In an email to Abramjee, he said: “You can go ahead and no leader of the ANC Youth League will be involved and no message will be sent. Please stop any form of communication with the ANC Youth League.” (sic)
Abramjee responded: “I need to place on record that the decision to present the newsmaker award jointly to Madonsela and Malema was conveyed to the youth league’s Magdalene Moonsamy immediately after the National Press Club’s exco meeting on Thursday evening, 19 January. We’ve had an indication that Malema is happy to receive the award.
“I must also place on record that the tone of your e-mail leaves much to be desired. It is not only unprofessional but simply rude. Furthermore, the message is contrary to what we were told,” Abramjee replied to Shivambu.
“The Newsmaker of the Year award is not a merit award. Whether Malema attends or not, the event goes ahead,” says Abramjee.
Aon South Africa Chief Executive Officer Anton Roux says the fact that two individuals on vastly different poles of the public reporting spectrum can be newsmakers is a clear indication of how diverse and free South Africa’s media can report.
“This is a privilege that can never again be forfeited. We at Aon South Africa are proud to be associated with such a scientifically determined award that recognises people who capture public sentiment and fuel open, democratic debate. It is an opportunity to recognise the courage and the commitment of the media and ordinary South Africans to ensure that our hard won media freedom remains intact. It also allows us to impress upon each and every journalist the enormous responsibility they have in ensuring that as citizens, we can continue to believe what we read and hear in the news,” says Roux.
Abramjee says the award has been established as the scientific award that many strive (and some fear!) to receive.
“The award is made on the grounds of impact, news value and media attention in electronic, print, online and social media.”
The club is synonymous with the Newsmaker of the Year award. Over the years the club has recognised and awarded many newsmakers. Previous recipients include President Jacob Zuma, former presidents FW de Klerk, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. Other newsmakers include Hollywood star Charlize Theron, Zachie Achmat and the Treatment Action Campaign, the late Hansie Cronj� and various other sporting personalities, DA Leader Helen Zille, ESKOM and Cope also received the award in recent years. Last year the newsmakers were Sepp Blatter and Danny Jordaan for successfully hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The awards function will be hosted in Pretoria on Friday, 23 March. The winner of the National Press Club-North-West University Journalist of the Year competition will also be announced at the function.
This year’s ceremony will also see the introduction of a new “Proudly South African” media award in conjunction with the National Press Club and Aon. In partnership with the “Proudly South African” buy-local campaign, the award will be presented to a journalist, media organisation or media initiative which promotes national unity and pride, patriotism and/or supporting local business.