Lindile Mpanza

Grounded, courageous and principled — three words that could describe both Lindile Mpanza and the powerful human-interest documentaries she produces for 3rd Degree. Take her story about a family whose four-year-old died mysteriously on the operating table of a public hospital after going in to get a few teeth pulled. The young girl’s parents were made to wait six hours, not knowing whether their child was alive or dead. The post-mortem revealed she died of unnatural causes and, eventually, the doctor was found guilty.

“Being able to give a voice to someone who has given up all hope of ever getting justice” is partly the reason Mpanza shoulders big emotional stories like these.

It’s a heavy responsibility for a 26-year-old but she knows that if she chooses the right stories and asks the right questions she can use this powerful medium to empower people and effect real change, although that’s easier said than done. “Persuading someone to open up and share something they would never share with anyone is hard, but asking them to do it on a medium like TV, for millions to see, can prove really difficult.” But she’s never shied away from telling the tough stories, working as hard to gain an interviewee’s trust as she does to access information.

Mpanza has come a long way since she was named top television journalism student at Rhodes University in 2007, winning a Carte Blanche Investigative Journalism scholarship and the opportunity to hone her skills as a researcher. She must have really applied herself because, just four years later, she won the television feature category in the CNN Multichoice African Journalist of the Year Awards and recently accepted a Discovery Health Journalism Award in the TV category. It’s easy to see why Mpanza features in this year’s Cool and Black — a directory celebrating black African talent in the creative arts.

Cat Pritchard