amaBhungane (isiZulu for “the dung beetles”) is an independent, non-profit newsroom based in South Africa. Launched in 2010, it develops investigative journalism to promote a free, capable media, and open, accountable and just democracy.
amaBhungane develops investigative journalism in the public interest, inter alia by engaging in its best practice, by transferring investigative skills to other journalists, and by helping to secure the information rights investigative journalists need to do their work.
amaBhungane’s activities include the following:
Investigations – develop best practice in its field by doing stories that are accurate and fair, advance methods and standards, expose wrongdoing and empower people to hold power to account.
AmaBhungane’s small team of investigators has forced information into the public domain where there was none. Its investigative stories – exposés on institutional independence being undermined, corruption and corporate malfeasance – have contributed to change. The #GuptaLeaks series, done in collaboration with two partner publishers, helped force the resignation of South Africa’s president six months ago.
Investigations support – help others in the media through training, editorial collaboration, and organisational support.
AmaBhungane has hosted over sixty fellows from across the SADC region, and its efforts to support investigative journalism in the rest of Southern Africa where resource constraints and sometimes repression make journalists’ accountability task so much harder, have borne tangible fruit. In recent years, amaBhungane fellows in Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia have established investigative centres, while a centre in Zambia is taking its first steps. amaBhungane collaborates with, and offer ongoing support to these centres.
Advocacy – lobby, campaign, exercise laws and litigate to help secure the information rights – access to information and media freedoms – that are the lifeblood of its field. amaBhungane’s advocacy has secured information flows for journalists and the public at large.
amaBhungane helped found the campaign that stopped the “Secrecy Bill”; secured legislative amendments, including to make company ownership transparent; litigated successfully, including to preserve the public status of court records; and improved the access-to-information law by exercising it in and out of the courts. Recently, its submissions to Parliament on the Political Party Funding Bill and Critical Infrastructure Bill led to small but important amendments securing greater transparency.
amaBhungane publishes stories on its own website, amaBhungane.co.za, and via a range of publication partners and platforms. Its distributed publication strategy – following readers to where they are via these partners – paid off in its collaboration around the #GuptaLeaks, a trove of hundreds of thousands of e-mails from within the heart of the criminal family that had “captured” the South African state. Working with the feisty Daily Maverick (whose editor was first approached on behalf of the whistleblowers); News24, South Africa’s largest news site; data outfit OpenUp; and UK investigative journalism outfit, Finance Uncovered; multiplied its research capacity and impact.
amaBhungane and its partners’ stories outlined the Guptas’ involvement in the appointment of senior officials in government and state-owned companies, and how they were able to draw on these “deployees” to advance their interests, such as by muscling in on contracts with state enterprises Eskom and Transnet. amaBhungane’s reporting also exposed the “enablers” – firms such as KPMG, McKinsey, China South Rail, SAP, Software AG, Liebherr and MultiChoice, who were all willing to enter into highly dubious arrangements with Gupta-linked companies in order to secure contracts or advantage. A number of them have taken corrective action, such as McKinsey returning almost R1 billion in fees to Eskom, and KPMG restructuring completely.
There can be little doubt that the #GuptaLeaks was a key factor in former president Jacob Zuma’s defeat and recall in February 2018. Zuma’s successor, now President Cyril Ramaphosa, later said: “When the #GuptaLeaks came out, it became clear that the wheels had come off completely… It became patently clear to everyone that we were dealing with a much bigger problem than we had ever imagined.”
Public donations were amaBhungane’s biggest source of income last year. AmaB Supporters understand that investigative journalism – the sort that promotes open, accountable, just democracy – is not a copy-and-paste job, but takes real time and money.
Click here to make a donation to amaBhungane and become an “amaB Supporter”.