Conveners of the prestigious Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism have withdrawn awards given to three Sunday Times journalists for their Cato Manor killings reports due to elements of the story being called into question.
In 2011, the paper ran a front page story titled "Shoot to Kill" which was authored by journalists Stephan Hoffstatter, Mzilikazi wa Africa and Rob Rose. The article claimed to have lifted the lid on "killings committed by an elite police unit". The three were given the Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism runner-up award in 2012.
It was former regional head of the Hawks General Johan Booysen who raised the alarm on aspects of the story.
According to convener Anton Harber, after conducting its own investigation, the awards body will withdraw the runner-up award and has asked that the journalists return it.
"While there was a legitimate story around the Cato Manor unit – the reporting, writing and editing was shoddy and amateurish, leading to serious errors and gaps in the report," said Harber.
"With the information that has come to light, it is clear that this work did not merit the recognition of the award."
Entrants to be screened
Harber said the award was given "in good faith, based on the information before us at the time".
In October, Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko issued an apology on the reporting of the Cator Manor killings as more questions were raised on aspects of the story.
"We committed mistakes and allowed ourselves to be manipulated by those with ulterior motives.
"For that, we failed you. We failed SA. We deeply regret it," said Siqoko at the time.
The awards body has said it had taken extra measures this year to ensure it does not repeat the mistake.
"We have this year subjected entries to detailed screening before our judging process, putting questions to entrants where there was a lack of clarity about any aspect of the story or reporting on it.
"We will be vigilant in ensuring integrity of the award and ensuring that we recognise and encourage the highest quality of investigative reporting in the public interest," added Harber.
The editor could not be immediately reached for comment at the time this story was published.