Vodacom Journalist of the Year

Entries for the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards (VJOY) 2021 will open on Friday, 20 August as the journalistic competition marks its 20th year in existence.

Last year, for the first time, the Awards were hosted virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a virtual format will also be followed for the 2021 Awards. The 2021 theme for the Awards is Resilience, which is a continuation of the 2020 VJOY theme of Reimagine, Reinvent and Rebuild, as South Africa’s media industry faces the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, chief officer for External Affairs at Vodacom South Africa said: “Over the past two decades, hundreds of South Africa’s emerging and established journalists have been rewarded for excellence in recognition of their reporting efforts for the benefit of the South African public. Media plays a major role in contributing to the economic and political development of citizens in any country in the world, and Vodacom is proud to mark this milestone of 20 years of supporting democratic South African press freedom.”

Jermaine Craig, Ryland Fisher, Arthur Goldstuck, Patricia McCracken, Mapi Mhlangu, Collin Nxumalo, Jovial Rantao and Obed Zilwa are part of this year’s judging panel, along with three new judges in Professor Gilbert Motsaathebe, Advocate Robin Sewlal and Phindile Xaba. Franz Kruger and Elna Rossouw will not be able to serve on the 2021 panel due to prior commitments, while Mary Papayya has retired from the VJOYs after many years of dedicated service.

Ryland Fisher, convener of the VJOY judging panel, said: “We have an exceptionally talented and experienced panel of judges who are all South African media veterans and will no doubt add immeasurable value and bring diverse insights to the adjudication process. I would like to pay a special tribute to Mary Papayya, who for many years was one of the most hardworking and wisest judges on the VJOY panel. As a former convener of the judging panel, Mary had knowledge and wisdom that only come with experience. I will miss her friendship and camaraderie, as well as being able to call on her whenever I was uncertain about anything related to the rules of the competition.”

Professor Gilbert Motsaathebe teaches in the Department of Journalism, Film & Television at the University of Johannesburg. He is also the editor-in-chief of Communicare – Journal for Communication Sciences in Southern Africa.

Advocate Robin Sewlal, a former Convenor of Judges for the competition, has returned to the judging panel. He is the associate director: Journalism at Durban University of Technology and a Commissioner at the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa.

Formerly the executive editor at Sowetan and editor at REAL magazine, communications consultant Phindile Xaba is a media practitioner and business rescue entrepreneur with multi-platform experience. Her experience spans a couple of decades wherein she has held various positions – including copywriter, writer, copy-editor, content producer, journalist, language advisor/trainer, researcher and scriptwriter.


Awards are given to the best journalists across various categories in five regions nationally.

The 2021 categories are:

  • Live reporting/breaking news
  • Investigative
  • Opinion
  • Lifestyle
  • Features
  • Photography
  • Sport
  • Financial & Economics
  • Politics
  • Sustainability
  • Innovation in Journalism
  • Young Journalist of the Year Award
  • Lifetime Achiever Award

Journalists will be able to enter their best achievements for work produced between 1 August 2020 and 31 July 2021. All entries must be submitted online at www.journalist.vodacom.co.za. Entries open on 20 August and close at midnight on 20 September 2021 and no late entries will be considered.

Each of the regional category winners receives R5,000, while national category winners take home R10,000. The overall Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award winner will receive R100,000. In the event of joint winners, the prize money will be shared. The winner of the Young Journalist award wins an all-expenses paid overseas trip to work in an international newsroom. Should the pandemic continue to interrupt international travel, alternative arrangements will be made.

For more, go to www.journalist.vodacom.co.za.