The Wits Justice Project is an award-winning public interest journalism programme focused on the South African justice system – extending from crime and law enforcement to the courts, correctional services, the development and administration of laws, and the justice ministries.
The Justice Project uses high-quality, credible reporting, supported by reliable data, to produce stories that improve the public’s understanding of the justice system and which hold those in power to account. Based at the Wits Centre for Journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, the Justice Project also assists with specialised training for student and community journalists and offers resources on crime and court reporting for commercial news media and academic scholars.
Impact through justice journalism
Established in 2008, the Wits Justice Project initially focused on investigating human rights abuses and miscarriages of justice related to the criminal justice system, integrating journalism, law, research, education and advocacy to raise awareness, expose injustice, and campaign for important changes and reforms.
Through the efforts of the Justice Project, working with legal representatives, in 2011 parole was secured for Fusi Mofokeng and Tshokolo Joseph Mokoena, both of whom had spent 19 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. The Justice Project also played a key role in securing the release, between 2015 and 2017, of Thembekile Molaudzi, Samuel Khanye and Victor Moyo, who had been wrongfully convicted of murder and robbery and sentenced to life in prison in 2004.
The Constitutional Court overturned the men’s convictions and sentences on all counts. Between 2012 and 2019 the Justice Project exposed ongoing gross human rights abuses of inmates housed at South African prisons operated by international security company G4S. These investigations later became the subject of a book The Misery Merchants: Life and Death in a Private South African Prison, written by former Justice Project investigative journalist and editor Ruth Hopkins, and an award-winning documentary film called Prisons for Profit, produced by IFProductions and Java Films.
The work of the Wits Justice Project has demonstrated that justice and injustice are inter-connected, and systemic. Recognising this, the project has expanded to include research and reporting on the broader justice system providing a public information journalism service. This focus extends from crime and policing through to lawyers and ministries, and includes the labour courts, land claims courts, divorce courts and maintenance courts, children’s courts, and various officers or officials of the courts such as the Sheriff, and the Master’s Branch (for estates, liquidations, guardians and curators, etc).
For more information about the Wits Justice Project contact the programme head Dr Nechama Brodie.
Our annual reports
Read our 2013 annual report here.
Read our 2014 annual report here.
Read our 2015 annual report here.
Paul McNally, MTN Radio Awards, 3 awards: News and Actuality Presenter (community and campus radio), Best News and Actuality Show (The Science Inside), and Best Radio Documentary for his story Farouk Meyer and Oscar Pistorius
WJP awarded gold at the Making All Voices Count Global Innovation Competition, for the Citizen Justice Network project
Carolyn Raphaely, Standard Bank Sikuvile Award 2014 runner-up for her story Paraplegics Hellish Ordeal in Prison
The WJP was awarded Wits University’s Vice-Chancellor’s Academic Citizenship Team Award in October 2013.
Paul McNally won the Webber Wentzel award for Legal Journalist of the Year (Radio) for his story Drug withdrawal in remand detention, which aired on Thetha FM (100.6)
Ruth Hopkins, Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year (Print) for:
Carolyn Raphaely, Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year, runner-up (Print) for:
Carolyn Raphaely, Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year (Print) for: