We caught up with award-winning investigative journalist, Daneel Knoetze (OK 2005) of Viewfinder – who has been selected as a 2023 Global Shining Light Award finalist for Small and Medium Outlets with his piece, Above the Law.

Daneel is the founder of Viewfinder, which is an accountability journalism project in South Africa. His piece, Above the Law has been recognised as a Shining Light Finalist in the Small and Medium Outlets category. This piece is focused on the institutional failure, specifically the lack of accountability for South African police officers.

Last year, Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) commemorated its 50th anniversary by honouring 50 of its most distinguished alumni across the globe – one of these, was Old Kingswoodian, Daneel Knoetze. To add to his list of accolades, Daneel was awarded the Gatesfield’s “People Journalist of the Year 2021” last year and was a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow in 2017/18 among other things since his graduation from Rhodes University.

We chatted to Daneel earlier in the month, and he gave us some insight into the South African investigative journalism industry.

What do you see as your responsibility as an investigative journalist in South Africa?

Investigative journalism has made big contributions to the public interest in South Africa in recent years, most notably through exposing State Capture under the Zuma presidency. Yet, it remains a niche field in the country’s news media landscape. Whereas most investigative journalism focuses on corruption and financial crimes, I hope to make a contribution by bringing its expository potential to bear on the drivers of inequality and social injustice in South Africa. For instance, the investigation for which I was recently shortlisted for the Global Shining Light Award uncovered the loopholes that police use to shield officers accused of such crimes as murder, torture and rape from accountability.

Investigative reporting seems pretty risky, what drives you to do what you do?

I love South Africa, and I would like to contribute to it being a more just and equal society. In South Africa, journalists are much better protected than in many other countries on the continent. We are fortunate in that regard. So, though there are some objective risks in my work, these pale when weighed against the potential contribution to public interest that investigative journalism can make.

How do you keep bias out of your reporting?

Be guided by the facts.

Daneel and his two brothers, Francois (OK 2007) and Tomas (OK 2011) all attended Kingswood College. Their mother, San, was also an Afrikaans teacher in the Senior School. Daneel recalls Saturday rugby matches on Wintery days in the front of the school as one of his fondest memories. He is also an avid traditional rock climber, and even managed to do a climb in the French Alps last year. However, his favourite climbing spot remains the Cederberg.

We thank Daneel for taking the time to chat to us, and we look forward to the announcement of the Global Shining Lights Awards winners, due to take place in Gothenburg, Sweden in September!