It’s been a significant year for M-Net’s leading investigative journalism show Carte Blanche. Despite the loss of its long-time presenter Derek Watts in August, the show continued its commitment to uncovering the truth and making a difference. The team undertook several difficult but impactful investigations this year – several of which spurred public and government action.
The Carte Blanche presenting team of Claire Mawisa, Macfarlane Moleli, Masa Kekana, Erin Bates, Lourensa Eckard, Govan Whittles, and guest presenters Bongani Bingwa and Xola Ntshinga took viewers on a journey of discovery, compassion, and fearless reporting.
Here are Carte Blanche’s stories of impact and most explosive investigations from this year, as well as what the team is planning for 2024.
Finding Zuko Nonxuba
A Carte Blanche investigation into disgraced Eastern Cape lawyer Zuko Nonxuba revealed how Nonxuba targeted families of children with cerebral palsy in the Eastern and Western Cape. Through medical negligence claims, he won millions of rands in payout from the government. Unfortunately, he gave none of it to the children affected. The investigations forced the Legal Practice Council to finally take action against Nonxuba. Several lawyers also formed a team to help some of the children access the millions of rands that are owed to them. Since then, the team of lawyers has approached the court to force Nonxuba to pay back the medical claims.
Crisis at Ikwezi Lokusa
In September, the team investigated Ikwezi Lokusa, a state-run boarding school for children with special needs in the Eastern Cape. Their undercover investigation revealed how children living with severe disabilities were being left to fend for themselves. In an explosive story, Carte Blanche confronted the government officials and caregivers employed to care for them. After the story aired, several Carte Blanche viewers organised donations of toys, clothes, toiletries, mattresses, and blankets for the children. A team of volunteers went to the school to repaint its walls and make the school a happy place again for the children. The provincial department of education continues to promise change for these children.
Dying to eat
In late November this year, a Carte Blanche investigation revealed a horrifying hunger crisis in the Eastern Cape. Despite government-sponsored social relief and food parcels, seven children had died there from severe acute malnutrition. Theirs are the tragic faces of an under-reported and existential crisis in the country’s poorest regions. Since the story aired, Gift of the Givers donated food parcels to the community and is providing formula for the little girl that the show featured. An anonymous businessman in the Eastern Cape also pledged a monthly payment to the two single mothers featured in the insert. The CEO of Outside the Bowl Global, working alongside Gift of the Givers, also donated 450 000 meals to the community.
SANDF torture squad
In early December, an explosive investigation by Carte Blanche and Open Secrets revealed torture, abduction, and murder by a special forces unit inside the South African National Defence Force. Since it aired, it forced the military to hold a media briefing where it admitted that it was aware of the allegations. It insisted that it had a right to not be transparent with the public, act against its members, or take responsibility for the allegations. This is a developing story that Carte Blanche intends to continue tracking into the new year.
Then there was the team’s novel story on the school with torque. Daniel Pienaar Technical School in Kariega in the Eastern Cape has a proud history as the oldest technical school in the country. The school’s pupils are living their dreams against a backdrop of roaring engines and customised cars. It’s the only one in the country — and one of only three in the world — offering motorsport as an extra-curricular activity. Since the insert aired, Motorsport South Africa won an FIA President’s Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Award for the school based on the work they did.
These investigations set the news agenda and furthered Carte Blanche’s decades-long reputation as a show at the forefront of breaking investigations:
The nightmare club
In Pretoria, the team investigated a popular nightclub where drugs, violence, and the suspicious death of one patron horrified viewers. With a reputation for violent bouncers and underage drinking, Carte Balance revealed that behind the club's glittering façade are dangers that lurk for young people looking for a good time.
Murray & Son
Earlier in the year, respected liquidator Cloete Murray and his son were brutally assassinated in Gauteng. Murray was the driving force in the liquidation of BOSASA, a company at the centre of serious state capture allegations of fraud and corruption. Carte Blanche’s investigation revealed how the liquidation industry is fraught with danger.
Poor service delivery, corruption, and gross mismanagement have turned Johannesburg into a site of neglected decay. While the City of Gold falls into a state of disrepair, the elected political elite squabbles for power. Earlier this year it got its third mayor in just five months – a man with virtually no digital footprint or discernible experience in running a multi-billion-rand municipal budget. Carte Blanche investigated Mayor Gwamanda’s background and found his CV and qualifications riddled with misinformation.
The De Ruyter interview
When Andre de Ruyter took office in 2019 as the newly minted CEO of Eskom, he was confident that he could help turn things around at the embattled national power utility. But after three years at the helm, he threw in the towel. He alleged deep corruption orchestrated by a politically connected coal mafia operating inside Eskom. In May, he revealed to Carte Blanche what really went wrong inside the parastatal.
Under the city of Johannesburg and into the sewers, Carte Blanche investigated how illegal mining operations by zama zamas could be impacting the integrity of the city’s infrastructure. From makeshift bush kitchens to perilous underground tunnels excavated in search of gold, the team revealed the harsh reality of their lives.
In October, Carte Blanche’s investigation into the Johannesburg Property Company revealed deep rot inside the city. This powerful group, which includes politicians, has been exploiting over 30 000 properties through a patronage network. The team probed whether investigations by the Special Investigating Unit and others yielded any results or brought any accountability.
The Carte Blanche Making a Difference Trust continues to make waves within the communities it operates in:
The Carte Blanche Making a Difference Trust – founded in late 2008 – was created to build critical care facilities by way of updating existing facilities with new technologies and refurbishments or starting from scratch and building and equipping entirely new hospital units. In its fifteen years of existence, the Carte Blanche MAD Trust has completed more than 20 projects around the country – in major hospitals – which see the bulk of the most critically ill children in the respective province. Each project undertaken is different in design and purpose.
Through the many diverse facilities, it is estimated that over a quarter of a million infants and youngsters have benefitted. In 2023, the Carte Blanche Trust built and equipped a Paediatric Burns Outpatient Unit at Ngwelezana Hospital (KZN), made possible by an extraordinary donation from South32’s Hillside Aluminium. This project forms part of “Phase 2” of the initial 22-bed Paediatric Burns Inpatient Unit project and was also principally funded by Hillside Aluminium and completed in 2019. The hospital now boasts burns facilities that can cater to children requiring care over the short and long term – from Isolated ICU rooms to follow-up intermittent care. In addition to this, this year saw the commencement of construction of a first-of-its-kind, Paediatric ER Centre at Sebokeng Hospital, Gauteng. The project is ambitious, and upon completion, the Trust hopes to set new benchmarks for emergency care facilities in South Africa.
What to expect in 2024
“2024 is an election year, with no bigger story in politics than the national elections. Carte Blanche intends on covering these developments," says executive producer John Webb. “The team is also working on several investigations, including an alleged paedophile ring operating in the country and the highly lucrative sale of coal on the black market. Viewers will also be able to witness the ultimate sting operation when the team went undercover to expose a criminal network.”
Watch Carte Blanche every Sunday at 19:00 on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) – The Home of Entertainment. You can also live-stream it on DStv Stream, and DStv Catch Up after broadcast. Join the conversation on X Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook using the hashtag #CarteBlanche.