Johannesburg - Anchored and executive produced by Nkepile Mabuse, e.tv’s CheckPoint – created in 2014 – is the type of investigative television journalism South Africa needs more of.
Its stories go back to on-the-ground, coalface journalism, exploring current topics such as pit toilets, initiation schools, being homeless on campus and the coffin assault case, in which two white farmers forced a black man into a coffin and threatened to burn him alive.
One episode that particularly impressed me was the focus on migrant zama zamas by the programme’s late producer, Godknows Nare.
Two camera people went underground and spent two days in this claustrophobic and dangerous territory to capture the reality of being a zama zama. It showed a side to zama zamas you rarely see.
“The idea behind the show is to tell untold stories,” says Mabuse. “So much happens in South Africa – it’s such a busy news cycle – that very rarely do people reflect on stories. We wanted to provide in-depth narratives that enhance people’s understanding of an issue.”
Anchor and executive producer Nkepile Mabuse, e.tv’s CheckPoint (Photo: City Press, Supplied)
Tuesday’s episode probed Sandile Mantsoe (27), who stands accused of murdering his girlfriend, Karabo Mokoena (22), on April 28. Mokoena’s brutal death ignited conversations about the high femicide rate in South Africa, and led to an outpouring of anger and grief among women under the hashtag #MenAreTrash on Twitter.
But Mantsoe is not just an accused murderer; he is also a scammer. More than 125 people fell prey to a scheme in which he convinced them he had perfected a “binary system” for trading foreign exchange that offered investors 25% to 30% interest.
The episode, by journalist Karyn Maughan, quickly shot to the number one trending spot on Twitter. The investigation didn’t feel exhaustive enough and could have delved deeper, but CheckPoint succeeds because it explores events and issues that black South Africans care about.
Although M-Net’s Carte Blanche produces slicker, more deftly explored stories, it has been criticised for only covering issues that affect white middle-class viewers.
“What differentiates CheckPoint is that our producers and journalists live in the communities they report on,” says Mabuse. “We tap into what interests people in the township; what they are talking about; what they are most concerned about. These stories don’t make assumptions about what people want to see or how they feel.”
CheckPoint is only 30 minutes long, and it always feels too short to unpack a story. However, considering the show has only 10 people on its team, it’s doing a whole lot with very little.
Catch CheckPoint on e.tv (DStv 194) on Tuesdays, at 22:00.
Rating: Three and a half stars