South African journalist Tabelo Timse awarded the 2021 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
The Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law rewards and honours the work of journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, members of non-governmental organisations, and all those who work to defend human rights and the rule of law, often risking their lives and in extremely difficult conditions.
Each year since 2016, France and Germany have awarded the prize to 15 jointly nominated laureates. Through this prize, the two countries reaffirm their commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights, which are all too often called into question and yet are the foundation of peace, stability and justice in the world.
The 15 laureates of the 2021 Prize were announced on 10 December 2021, on International Human Rights Day, which marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948). Among them is South African investigative journalist Tabelo Timse.
Tabelo Timse received the Price for her outstanding work as a member of the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, an independent non profit media centre in South Africa. As an investigative journalist, she works with her colleagues to report on the influence exerted on the state by private interest groups as well as mismanagement and state failures in the provision of public goods.
As a reporter-turned-investigative journalist, Ms Timse has been reporting on public mismanagement, service delivery failures and power imbalances between communities and corporate in South Africa for over a decade. Ms Timse’s investigative work speaks to issues of social justice, constitutional rights and the strengthening of democratic, participatory governance.
Early on in her career, Ms Timse showed an eagerness and skills to unearth issues of public interest. As a general reporter for local newspapers in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape province, she exposed prison warders smuggling weapons for inmates, municipal officials demanding bribes to award tenders and the tendency of dockets to go missing from police stations.
After a three-year stint with Agence France-Presse (AFP), she joined the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism in April 2012, where she still works today. There, she’s been actively involved in investigating stories that relate directly or indirectly to ‘State Capture’, a systematic project of looting South Africa’s public coffers and hollowing out of the state – particularly its institutions of accountability and control – led by senior officials and the Gupta family.
Ms Timse’s area of interest is investigating the relationship between extractive industries, rural communities, traditional leadership and government. Her investigation track-record includes, among others:
- investigating government financial mismanagement and service delivery failures mainly at local and provincial levels, including flawed tender processes (Ekurhuleni Toilets Tender, Johannesburg Vehicle Fleet Tender, Sedibeng Water) as well as the misappropriation of funds through the infamous Free State Estina dairy farm project;
- covering COVID-19 crisis-related issues and public procurement fraud, such as the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers;
- documenting conflicts between rural communities and corporate actors (mining companies, farms), for instance: Lonmin / Bapo ba Mogale community, Jindal / Melmoth community, Vaaldrift farm / Riemvasmaak community.
- Ms Timse’s work contributes to exposing governance issues, and giving visibility to communities that fall victim of institutional and corporate malpractices. She embodies some of the crucial virtues of investigative journalism – courage, stamina, a commitment to serve the public interest, and the professionalism necessary to build trust and credibility.
An independent and vigilant media is a priceless asset for vibrant open democracies and to enforce the rule of law. Ms Timse participated in investigating the #GuptaLeaks story (in relation to State Capture in South Africa), which has had serious implications for South Africa’s relatively young democracy. Doing so, she played a role in a story that is helping turn the tide on corruption and on the systematic hollowing-out of the country’s governance institutions and plundering of its resources.
More about the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, and the 2021 laureates: https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/aussenpolitik/themen/menschenrechte/franco-german-prize/2501086