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What should we investigate?

By Adriaan Basson

Being an investigative journalist, a question one often hears from friends, family or followers is: “Why don’t you rather investigate X or Y?”

When I started working as a journalist, I was afraid that I would not have enough material to write about. Today one of the hardest decisions we often have to make in the amaBhungane office is what NOT to investigate.

I still hate having to tell a whistleblower that we honestly don’t have the capacity or time to investigate his or her story. But the reality is that we are only so many hands and investigative pieces require extra resources and hours.

Unfortunately it is often stories about local government graft that miss the cut (although the exposés about Julius Malema’s tenders with municipalities in Limpopo taught us a hard lesson!)

We base our decisions what to probe on a number of things, including the impact of the story and the subjects involved. But maybe it’s time to ask our readers what you think we should be investigating and why.

A common complaint is that we have a too narrow focus on government corruption and don’t take a hard enough look at what’s going on in the private sector. There could be a number of reasons for this: the Mail & Guardian has established itself as a brand that exposes graft in the public sector and by far the majority of tip-offs we receive concern some or other state entity.

Another argument could be that state corruption affects every South African citizen, while private sector graft only concerns a limited amount of clients.

But what about big corporate players like banks and mines? Surely they affect the lives of millions of people (read fellow dung beetle Ilham Rawoot’s update on the Aurora mining crisis in this week’s paper)?

And if impact is the yardstick, what about the environment? Shouldn’t we be spending more time with the M&G’s brilliant environmental reporter Yolandi Groenewald exposing those who mess-up our air, water and resources?

Tell us what you think amaBhungane should be probing and why. And if you throw in some documents or footage to motivate your argument, we may even break the story sooner than you think!


  • amaBhungane are the investigators of the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit, public interest initiative to produce better investigative stories and plough back through internships and advocacy. On this blog, amaBhungane -- seasoned and award-winning journalists -- will penetrate the world of smoke and mirrors to bring you the story behind the story.