[intro]Justice Albie Sachs has praised the team of students who visited their homes before the municipal elections and put together a series of articles on the state of local governance for The Journalist. [/intro]

Sachs, who reads widely and who describes himself as having become “an elections news junkie in exile”, singled out the Touching Base series, as “almost the only reporting that really reached out to me”.

The series was compiled by journalism students from the universities of Free State and Johannesburg. The students visited their homes towns, cities and villages during the mid-year vacation and gathered information relevant to local governance.

They shared with readers local election statistics, the performance of the councillor, service delivery patterns and political dynamics in the community.

Sachs said that while he was in exile he dreamed of one day taking part in democratic elections in South Africa. “

“In the meantime I wondered what the latest election results in Patagonia signified for the South African struggle. Now for the past several weeks I’ve been feeding the addiction with mountains of unsatisfying material on our local government elections,” he said.

“Almost the only reporting that really reached through to me was in The Journalist by journalism students at UFS and UJ. The focus was on their ability to capture the character of their home communities and the broad issues that occupied the minds of their families and neighbours. I felt enormous pride in our country: our Constitution was working,” he added.

“We were having free, fair and open elections; the vote, for which we had struggled so hard, really mattered. Considerable power was devolved to local municipalities. People spoke their minds openly. And a large cohort of young journalists were connecting up with their own communities, asking important questions and providing rich texture to our understanding of the nation,” he said.

“Thank you, Zubeida and company…and keep going, “ he concluded.

Read the Touching Base series here.