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South Africa team delivers in all formats as violence spreads

People throw stones at police as they attempt looting at Letsoho Shopping Centre in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, July 12, 2021, amid escalating violence that broke out following the imprisonment of South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of the country’s highest court. (AP Photo / Themba Hadebe)

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This South Africa team of staff and freelancers drew on experience and stamina for comprehensive all-formats coverage of the worst civil unrest in the country’s post-apartheid history.

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Africa News Editor Andy Meldrum, right, interviews a member of the Soweto Youth Parliament guarding the Maponya mall against looting, July 15, 2021. – Photo by Carl Ndaba

Senior producer Nqobile Ntshangase and freelance text correspondent Mogmotsi Magome had waited and waited for the denouement of a drama gripping South Africa — after close to a week spent outside the farm of former president Jacob Zuma in the state of KwaZulu-Natal, a deadline loomed for police to arrest him for contempt of South Africa’s highest court. No one was sure whether that deadline would be respected, so the team stuck to their stakeout. Finally, when a police convoy sped away with Zuma in custody just minutes before the deadline expired at midnight, Magome worked with Africa editor Andrew Meldrum to move AP’s quick, accurate alert. But the story was just beginning.

With no time to sleep, the team chased the convoy to the prison for daybreak live coverage, numerous story updates, more live coverage and reaction. The fast, accurate reporting continued into the next day as Zuma’s supporters burned trucks on a main highway, blocking it and severing the port city Durban from other parts of the country — the first sign of worse trouble to come.

The violence spread,with rioting in various locations through KwaZulu-Natal and into Gauteng province,exacerbated by South Africa’s underlying economic problems,including high rates of unemployment and poverty. Photographer Themba Hadebe found trouble close to home in Soweto and produced outstanding images while exercising caution as journalists were attacked by rioters, with little sign of the police intervening.

Freelance video journalist Dinky Mkhize captured dramatic scenes at a Soweto mall and Ntshangase delivered live coverage of rioting at another mall across town. Photo editor Denis Farell tapped his extensive network of freelance photographers and Ntshangase ensured AP’s daily video report was distinctive including use of drones and character-driven reporting wherever possible. Chief photographer Jerome Delay contributed photos of volunteers cleaning up in the wake of the violence.

Meanwhile,Meldrum did what he does best,assembling the multiple reports of violence,deaths,looting into a comprehensive report day after day while providing political and societal context amid the chaotic, shifting events. His story “‘I was in tears’: South Africans take stand against rioting” stands out in the week’s strong body of work.

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