Mara (or Marah)…..what happened?

December 5, 2016

Filed under: Blog — gareth @ 6:16 am

What actually happened then? Many are still asking. You won’t find any juicy details about ‘spiking’ drinks in my book (as the Sunday Times have now admitted to being wrong about) – I only briefly mention this incident because it was highly publicized at the time. Ironically, I have written about the last article by the Sunday Times about me in January this year, by the same journalist, which didn’t paint me in the best light either. But what happened with Mara?
I sat next to Mara Louw on the Idols judging panel for several years and we shared many laughs and good times together. She was often cranky and we used to tease her about this but she was also the ‘mama’ of the show and I happened to be very fond of her. Here is a photo of Mara at a Heritage Day braai I hosted in 2010 before we set off to Idols in the evening – just one week before the Vodka incident. She enjoyed a drink now and again.
I can only remember one time when there was alcohol backstage at Idols. A crew member happened to have a bottle of vodka and poured some drinks in front of everyone, including Mara, who knowingly acepted. She went on to have something of a meltdown during the show. Only the next day, on a radio interview, she admitted to being on medication and said that I had given her the drink, blaming this for her strange behaviour. The press had a field day. End of story. Perhaps she was looking for someone to blame, rather than admit to being irresponsible about mixing medication and alcohol.
A YouTube clip of that incident is now circulating on social media and the Sunday Times concocted a story (six years later) that I admitted to ‘spiking’ her drink in my book that was released this week. How do things get so twisted?
Besides the trashy journalism we are witnessing and my name being dragged through the mud, this does not bode well for Mara’s legacy. I am saddened that an icon of the South African musical landscape will be remembered for one unfortunate incident. She did not lose her job at the time – she was back on the judging panel the very next week and regained her dignity. However, there were many more press reports about controversial things she had said in the following weeks. The fact that her contract wasn’t renewed when the season ended was a private matter between her and the channel.
Mara’s behaviour was unpredictable at times – there are many famous people who have had much worse public meltdowns but pick themselves up and go on to greater success. We’re all human. Young people could learn from Mara that it isn’t wise to drink alcohol if you’re on medication…and please take responsibility for your actions if you do.
Mara Louw remains one of the great singers of our time. She has performed at some of the most prestigious events both at home and internationally, as well as being a TV star. Mama Mara – the sometimes quirky but wise elder who we want to admire…that’s how we want to remember you.



December 2, 2016

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , , , , — gareth @ 12:55 pm

sunday times gareth cliff

Last Sunday I finished my last season as an Idols judge. I intended to leave on a high note, having completed a terrific trip to New York with ProVerb and the Top 4 Idols and a record-breaking season. The finale should have been about the winner, Noma, and the audience who love the show. The Sunday Times had other ideas.
On Sunday morning the day of the Idols finale, I woke up to the news that “I gave Marah that ‘spiked’ drink, say Gareth Cliff”. Can you imagine – a false headline, focussed on a non-story from 6 seasons before, on the day we were about to finish a monumental eleventh season of this hit show? I was furious.
I’m used to newspapers getting it wrong, twisting a line out of context, concocting a provocative headline to sell enough of their papers to stave off the inevitable decline of profitable print media. But this was outrageous. That headline made it sound like I was admitting to a crime. The article itself was full of factual inaccuracies that the Sunday Times have since admitted to. Here’s an extract from the reply Susan Smuts, Managing Editor of the Sunday Times sent to my lawyer, Eric Mabuza:
“Thank you for your letter dated November 28 2016, which was forwarded to me today. We concede that the subheading and the second paragraph misinterpreted what your client wrote in his book.In particular we concede that your client did not write that he had cost Ms Louw her job or that he poured her a drink of vodka.”
Misinterpreted? Either I said it or I didn’t. I didn’t, so there’s no interpretation necessary. What the Sunday Times unleashed was a tirade of hysterical accusations and insults on social media that had me branded everything from a Bill Cosby-type date-rapist to a white man who cost a black woman her job. It was all based on absolute nonsense, so all of it was totally unjustified. I don’t mind taking responsibility for things that I HAVE done or things that I HAVE said, but this was made up. I’ve never spiked anyone’s drink, let alone a colleague twice my age.
The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine, SABC, MTV Base, eNCA and other smaller publications joined in this slovenly mess by re-publishing the story as a fact. Not one journalist called me to fact check anything at all. Not a single one. When we talk about fake news, this is what we mean.
Our lawyers have asked for an unreserved apology and the Sunday Times are dragging their feet. To sell their tawdry paper, they’re happy to damage reputations. I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last. Sad state of journalism…..


November 14, 2016

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 1:02 pm

10pm on the 9th of November 2016. I walked past the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Columbus Circle – a crowd of a hundred-odd people was there, in the drizzle, shouting and ranting about abortion and Trump and racism. Nobody was listening. The police stood by, mostly looking bored. Rich people, returning from dinner, were ushered in by bellboys through a side-entrance. Tourists took photos on their phones. One girl got up on the concrete barricade and shouted about her body and her choice, in a very hoarse, angry, desperate voice. They were all in their twenties and probably unemployed, living with their parents or at college. Poor little snowflake generation. Across America and the world, precious millennials woke up to the fact that being woke was worthless.

A white, straight, male, able-bodied, privileged, cis-gender billionaire who says politically incorrect and offensive things had broken down the walls of their safe spaces and macro-aggressed their soft, fat body-shamed asses. America decided it was time for a recalibration, as happens every few years, and the “First Woman President in the White House” idea was thrown in the rubbish bin.

Eight years of President Obama have been mostly good for the world. On the whole, he kept a lot of what he inherited going – Guantanamo bay is still open for business and drones keep striking parts of the Middle East. He had a hard time with a recalcitrant Congress – blocked at every turn by the Senate and House Republicans, but he managed to make a few meaningful policies come to fruition, and undoubtedly grew the economy. Obama is charismatic, likeable, scandal-free, dignified, intelligent and very middle-class. He was criticized for not talking enough about race or identity politics by the left, but there’s no evidence to show that he regards himself as any kind of a victim – despite the President-Elect denying his citizenship, and others worse. Obama is also a centrist. He understood that free speech meant you’d have to be willing to listen to unwelcome ideas in order to freely express yours. That’s not what college students and leftists in enclaves on the east and west coast think.

A portent of the election results, and the left’s first disappointment came when Bernie Sanders failed dismally in the primaries against Hillary. She used money, established political clout, celebrities and experience to defeat him – the system. Bernie crumpled like his own economic policies and succumbed almost without a fight. America’s broke, socialist grandpa felt the same heat of Hillary’s ire that Obama felt seven years before, except she beat Sanders and got burnt by Obama. Nobody really likes Hillary, but they like Sanders even less. To the people who use the echo-chamber of Twitter, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Tumblr and The Vox as their major news input, this was anathema. The people who were taken in by the mainstream media in the run-up to the election itself, couldn’t believe how wrong they’d got it. It never occurred to either that confirmation-bias, false-equivalence, an abundance of hyperbole about fascism and Hitler, or a total inability to stomach any rational opinion against their own position was misleading them, and their circles. They started to drink the kool-aid and forgot the taste of everything else. After a few months of watching MSNBC, CNN, Bill Maher, and our own horrible local knock-offs, I was starting to doubt myself too. “The smart money’s on Hillary”, I told people who asked me who would win. I placed actual money on Donald-and won, but I should have known better. We all should have.

Not even a last-minute celebrity super-tsunami of Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Madonna and Katy Perry could swing the vote to a win for Hillary. This election will also prove that those celebrities, along with Bruce Springsteen, Lena Dunham, Barbra Streisand and Kim and Kanye, need not be relied upon for their political opinions in the future, nor their ‘influence’. In short, the metrics for making sense of the world have changed. Poor President Obama spent a hefty amount of his substantial political capital on endorsing Hillary and denouncing Trump. Now that will diminish his legacy, when he hands over the keys to the Oval Office to an orange man with tiny hands in January.

When Obama swept into the White House he had widespread support from all kinds of Americans – whites, blacks, women, men, gays and immigrants – not that those things matter. His slogan “Yes we can!” mattered. We bought it. Hope was the offering. “I’m with her” just isn’t as good. It means nothing except that you’re willing to help propel a crooked, overambitious lawyer into a White House that had become Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton dynastic property in her mind. Trump offered to “Make America Great Again” – and by the way, America has never been better, but it’s nice to imagine it could improve. Trump was selling change.

Let me explain to my friends on the left why some smart people voted for Trump, because some of you still think this is like a vote for Hitler, or that only stupid hicks and rednecks voted for him. Not only does that reveal you to be an elitist of the most un-egalitarian kind, but it shows a disdain for the opinions of those you don’t agree with, which is the mark of someone who thinks they don’t have anything else to learn. Let us hope this election has humbled you. In case it hasn’t, let’s give it one more try:

People are sick of Washington’s rotten politics. Even Obama will tell you he’s sick of it. Here’s an outsider – a reality TV star and property mogul who turns the whole system on it’s head. People like the idea of pressing the ‘reset’ button. In a political swamp full of lobbyists, corporate and international money, threats and scandals, here’s a guy who owes nobody any political favours (who didn’t even have his own truly horrible party’s support until he overwhelmed and digested them).

Here’s a guy who believes in the things that nations are built on – success, hard work, merit, strength and pride – not welfare, victim hierarchies, gender studies and manufactured outrage.

Here’s a guy who says things that 70-year olds say because well, he’s a 70 year-old. He’s real. Hillary hanging out with stupid Kim and Kanye isn’t real – it’s her scrambling to win the youth vote.

Here’s a guy who takes responsibility for the things he has done – even the bad things and says what he thinks – not what he thinks you want to hear. Salt-of-the-earth people respond to that better than they do to someone who deletes e-mails they think you shouldn’t see.

The things we criticize Trump for – his objectification of women, his mocking the people he ran against, his unpredictability and inability to work off a script – those are the things that make him real to ordinary people. They’ve all had affairs, or made and lost money, or called someone a loser. Politicians don’t know anything about that world – and neither do their bedfellows in the mainstream media.

Maybe, psychologically, Trump is the old-fashioned Mr. Warbucks who took Annie in and rescued her from the orphanage to the millions of Americans who feel orphaned by their government and the world. Is that so hard to comprehend? Annoyed and bored with being called misogynists, racists, transphobes and fascists by precocious liberal arts students, perhaps middle America felt like showing up and doing what effective minorities have always done – showing up and showing some solidarity. We can hate them for that, but then we have to hate the civil rights movement, feminism and Black Lives Matter too.

I hate to break it to other people in my generation, but you’re the softest people ever – you don’t know about the hardships or the sacrifices of the generations that built the nation you live in. You’re looking for a way to be loved, to be relevant, to be meaningful – and you’re tilting at windmills. Real life isn’t like social media where you can like things, block things, post things and pretend your life is better than it is. The people who voted Trump knew that when they went to the polls. If you want to understand the world that has materialized around you, you need to abandon the news networks and celebrities you followed – who misinformed you. You need to talk to people outside your circle and you need to learn the difference between equality and equity. Study history and see what actually happened in Europe in the 1930s so you can start making comparisons that fit, and read Marx so you can figure out why going further left won’t save the Democratic Party.

Every time Hillary, a pundit, the media or the left criticized some aspect of Trump’s political incorrectness, some farmer or construction worker in the USA took it personally, and now they’ve got THEIR President, THEIR Senate, THEIR House, THEIR Governors and soon THEIR Supreme Court majority.

The left’s failure is complete. There is no safe space left to run to.

It turns out being woke doesn’t mean blogging, filtering your Insta pic or protesting – it means when the vote comes round you have to show the fuck up and wake the fuck up.

Press Statement

January 30, 2016

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 7:12 pm

Welcome to CliffCentral. Thank you for joining us today.

Yesterday Judge Caroline Nicholls ruled that my contract with M-Net be reinstated and that I return to the panel on Idols. We’ve had time to study the judgement in detail.

Before we begin, let me thank my team here at CliffCentral, my legal team, the thousands of supporters on social media, and the many people I have engaged with during this very challenging month. The thoughtful, useful discussions we have started to have in South Africa can only be good going forward…

I’d also like to thank those people who stood up for me in the face of horrible allegations of racism, in the shadow of the despicable comments of Penny Sparrow and her like. In THIS country, with our history, we must remember how serious a thing racism really is. I repeat my apology to people who still feel that my statement on free expression was insensitive.

We welcome the statement issued by M-Net last night, confirming the court’s decision to reinstate me, however I am concerned that they still insist they did nothing wrong. For ten seasons of Idols, I have had an excellent relationship with M-Net and the Producers of the show and that in all that time this has been the only bump on the road. The road to reconciliation must always travel over the bridge of truth and I hope that one day M-Net will find it in their hearts to admit their mistakes as I have admitted mine.

Great people, people much more important than me – those who really suffered for our right to free expression – like Nelson Mandela have said “let bygones be bygones.” – so who am I, a little ant, compared to these giants to hold a grudge? So I say “let bygones be bygones” and the show must go on!

My only wish is that all South Africans, myself included, have learnt something from this episode. The month of January 2016 is ending tomorrow – it has been a difficult month for our country, since those idiotic, racist, hurtful and offensive remarks made by Penny Sparrow. As a country we now need to find the wisdom to make lemonade out of that bitter lemon.

If my High Court application and fine work of my attorney Eric Mabuza and Advocate Dali Mpofu and the rest of the team contributed a bit to ensuring that we end January 2016 in a better place than we started it, then it has been worth the sweat.

Thank you again to my colleagues, the legal team, my fellow South Africans and the founding mothers and fathers of our Constitution.

The engagement on racism must be allowed to continue in an effective manner until we defeat those demons.

A very important correction I wish to make is that I dragged my fellow judges, Somizi and Unathi into the matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was M-Net, in their statement of 9 January who brought them into it:

I quote from M-Net’s statement as to why I was fired:

“Over the last few months following Unathi’s indiscretions on social media, we have been in discussions with our judges, presenters and talent to sensitise them to the risks of using social media. All the Idols SA judges were reminded that M-Net holds all brand ambassadors and employees to the highest standards in our ongoing efforts to promote and build a modern and inclusive South Africa.

Unfortunately we then had to deal with Somizi’s inappropriate comments and following the latest issue, we have now implemented a zero tolerance policy for all social media posts that go against the spirit of nation-building.

This policy will apply to everyone associated with our brands going forward.

We do not believe that Gareth is a racist but his response showed a lack of empathy for our history and it is important to differentiate between freedom of speech and hate speech. Penny Sparrow’s comments were hateful. Hate speech is not applicable with regard to freedom of speech.”

To me, as a broadcaster in South Africa – and as an African – freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that underpins most other rights. The right to speak your mind freely on important issues in society…. the ability to access information…. and to hold the powers that be accountable, is vital in the healthy development of society.

Africa has a long history of suppression of freedom of expression – both pre and post colonization – where people have been excluded from meaningful participation in society, and in turn from the opportunity to better their lives.

Where to next? With regard to Idols, the show must go on! There are talented and not-so talented people lining up in Durban as we speak, waiting for their big break.

But here we are, in the hub – with so many of our amazing personalities here today – who together with us are building this platform that we launched in May 2014. This is about engaging in real conversations: about everything that happens in our world that we all experience every day – what makes us think… laugh… cry… inspires us and empowers us.

This is now the platform where people don’t have to be scared to have real, authentic and meaningful conversations – conversations that can foster greater understanding and unity in South Africa. We’ll be leading the charge! We can and will continue to do what is necessary to build this great nation. If you haven’t already joined our party, log onto, or download the CliffCentral app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Viva #unscripted #uncensored #unradio Viva

Viva South Africa! Viva!

While We Were Sleeping  #SparrowGate2

January 10, 2016

Filed under: Blog — gareth @ 11:42 am


 How has your 2016 been so far?  Sadly, in South Africa, instead of celebratory fireworks to launch the year, we have witnessed social media explosions on a monumental scale – many of which could have led to constructive engagement, but spiralled into witch hunts and lost opportunities. 

This weekend #SparrowGate very quickly escalated into #IdolsGate after M-Net made an announcement in the early hours of Saturday morning that I would no longer be part of the judging panel. This came after demands on Twitter to have me removed as well as Mzansi subscribers apparently threatening to boycott. Understandably, this is scary for a commercial entity.

 Like everyone else, it would seem that the M-Net executive (or whoever the powers may be) yielded in the middle of this frenzy.  In my experience, it usually takes around seven days for these fires to burn out so the announcement managed to catch the tail end of this one.  The M-Net PR machine may have been up at midnight crafting their announcement, but while I woke up to calls on Saturday morning from various newspapers for comment, I wasn’t going to let this eat into my weekend. I will reserve my right to respond at the appropriate time. 

 This is not about Idols or me.   Idols is a reality TV talent show with good and bad singers to get ratings.   I’ve been a judge for eleven seasons and I’ve loved the journey… But Idols has never been my job.   It’s an extramural activity and anyone who listens to my show would know that I have felt my time was up a good couple of years ago.  I may have played a role in finding talent, but not in developing it as far as this show goes – I just have to arrive, listen and comment.  Then I go home.  When it’s over, it’s over!  It’s entertainment.

Be that as it may, it took me back to October 2010 when I wrote a letter to the Government, which went viral. Why did I continue voting for the ANC, you may ask?  This is why…

 While social media hadn’t reached the maturity it has today, the newspapers had a field day and the letter was spread far and wide on the internet, creating a frenzy of its own. The SABC executive wanted to fire me but this was scuppered when I received a call from Zizi Kodwa, then spokesperson for the President’s office, to have a meeting. A very constructive meeting took place over a lunch that subsequently was immortalised in the form of a Zapiro cartoon. We discussed a wide range of challenges facing South Africa as well as my now infamous and probably most insensitive tweet when the Minister of Health passed the year before.

 I wrote a follow-up letter and indulge me while I quote from it (both letters are in my book “Gareth Cliff on Everything”): 

“I was amused to have a serious journalist ask me if I thought the Office of the President might ban me from writing again.  I thought this betrayed his own opinion of government and the free media more than any answer I could give.  All week I have had journalists stoking fires, manufacturing tensions and making it look like I was engaged in a battle to the death with government.  Questions like ‘have you been threatened by powerful politicians?’, ‘Are you scared that the Presidency will go after you?’ and even ‘Do you stand by what you wrote?’. 

Instead, the calm voice of reason has been the Office of the President.  They requested a meeting to discuss matters raised in the letter – simple, honest, reasonable and, I hope, positive.  We live in a country that knows freedom better than most, because we come from a history that knew none.   Let us celebrate the right to have opinions, speak truth to power and disagree in a civil manner.  Despite everything I raised in my letter, I am prouder and more dedicated to South Africa than ever before.”

And this is why I continued to vote for the ANC.  Fast forward to today – January 2016  – what are we doing South Africa? My response on Twitter was not to Penny Sparrow but to a tweet about a survey on Freedom of Speech which spiralled out of control… But we’ve already dealt with that.   Instead of constructive dialogue, it’s a call for the blood of little-known people and one loud-mouthed and sometimes insensitive broadcaster.  In my case, instead of engagement and reviewing the context, the ANCYL (my ANC!!) tweet out with a call to march on DSTV until they remove me and Minister Fikile Mbalula trending on Twitter last night with tweets such as these:

@MissMadiba: That awkward moment when Fikile Mbabula says he’s got Gareth Cliff handled & that time he’s fired! LOL #RGB

@NakediGreen:  Fikile Mbalula: Nah nah don’t tell me about Gareth Cliff, I can handle that boy, I’m ready for him. #RGB #jawdrop

@Bosslady_Sne: Fikile Mbabula on RGB says he is ready for Gareth Cliff…haibo I can’t wait lol

 Really? Maybe you can’t blame M-Net for buckling!  Was DJ Fresh right when he tweeted yesterday “With respect, wasted opportunity by @MNet..@GarethCliff would have been perfect spokesperson for #WayForward / #WhatNext #OhWell”?  Perhaps that’s what Zizi Kodwa thought in 2010.  What is happening to us as a country? What has happened to the once mighty ANC?

Where to next? Now fully unencumbered by any other master and solely an entrepreneur, I will continue to build the platform we launched in May 2014 – This is about building a pre-eminent online content hub engaging in real conversations: about everything that happens in our world that we all experience every day – what makes us think… laugh… cry… inspires us and empowers us.  

This is now the platform where people don’t have to be scared to have real, authentic and meaningful conversations that can foster greater understanding and unity in South Africa.    And we’re leading the charge along with our amazing contributors who are made up of both well-known personalities and aspiring new talent… and you – our valued and engaged audience.   We can and will continue to do what is necessary to build this great nation. If you haven’t already joined our party, log onto, or download the CliffCentral app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.  

Viva #unscripted #uncensored #unradio Viva!


January 7, 2016

2016 has started painfully.

I’m a white guy and I’m mindful that I inherit a system biased in my favour, but I’m also a passionate South African – and have been outspoken on matters to do with the country because I care so much.

I’m not a member of any political party. The only membership I have is of the Mamelodi Sundowns fan club, which I joined when I was 15. In 1994, I was still at school and too young to vote. Since the General Election of 1999, I have only ever voted for the ANC – with the exception of one election where I wasted my vote on COPE. I kept voting ANC, even when I became disillusioned with the President and the executive – mostly because I believed in what the ANC stood for.

Over the years I have taken a lot of abuse for my views – I’ve even received death threats. I’ve always regarded this as an exercise of freedom of speech – in a country where freedom of speech had not existed prior to 1994. In the light of #Sparrowgate and the ensuing controversy, I have come to understand that what I have been tolerating is hate speech.

On Sunday night, a South Coast Estate Agent that nobody cared about called Penny Sparrow, wrote an odious social media post about crowds of black people on beaches – comparing them to monkeys. On Monday morning I dealt with this on my show on, and unequivocally condemned racism.

Later that morning, someone tweeted a poll asking people for their opinions on freedom of speech – to which I replied “People don’t understand free speech at all.”

Having already discussed it on my show, I wrongly assumed that we were all already in agreement that you can’t stand up for racism

@Wamotsibah773 responded: “Are you a racist as well? Or are you one of those who think there’s a beta skin colour than the other?”, to which I responded: “Don’t be so linear. You insult your own intelligence. This woman is an idiot and a racist, but I believe in freedom of speech.”

This was the source of unrelenting anger, name-calling and death threats against me that ensued as the message became more and more lost in the shitstorm.

Read it again and assess for yourself whether such a disproportionate outrage is called for.

Calls to boycott me and even the TV show Idols came in the wake of this lynch-mob that directed their fury at me. In an effort to clarify things, I apologised for the confusion, which sadly only led to more vitriol.

Here is the apology:

Gareth Apology

I certainly appreciate the need to obtain greater clarity on what the limits of free speech and the parameters of hate speech really are. I’m also grateful that people like Pinky Khoabane, Sizwe Dhlomo, Professor Jonathan Jansen, Advocate Dali Mpofu and DJ Fresh sought to constructively engage me on the matter. We all know that there are blurred lines in the sensitive context of race relations in South Africa.

At this moment, I feel disappointed in how the conversation sometimes gets hijacked by angry and emotional people on Twitter, who have no desire to add value. We should not be deterred from continuing the discussions we need to have to build a better South Africa.

When the dust settles, I hope that we can engage constructively – tell our stories, share our ideas and LISTEN to each other. Don’t be bullied. Don’t tolerate racism. Let’s keep talking.


Man Up

June 23, 2015

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 3:08 pm

Man UpWe talk about 16 days of Activism somewhere near the end of the year, every year – but nothing ever really happens. Male hetero-patriarchal aggression continues to be the mode of operation for not only politicians at the top (paying lip-service to women in the workplace while displaying the family values of a character from Game of Thrones), but also the ordinary people at the bottom – us. In South Africa, Father’s Day shuts ‘Black Twitter’ up like a sulky child – the reality for most black children in South Africa is that their fathers are either absent or not particularly good role-models. What I’m saying isn’t even controversial – In 2011 the SAIRR found that 9-million children in South Africa don’t have fathers.

The Father of our nation seems unable to curb profligate spending, is himself the maker of between 20-30 children, and seems not to wholly comprehend the sum-total of his responsibility to the nation and the rule of law. We really shouldn’t celebrate Father’s Day in South Africa at all. It’s much easier to get angry about statues, homesteads, racism and toilets.

How much of the anger that young people (particularly men) feel comes from the pain and disappointment of not having a male role-model in their lives – of seeing their mothers suffer to eke out an existence in order to feed, clothe and educate them and their siblings? Psychologists and Social Workers would no doubt provide mountains of evidence of what damage this basic breakdown of the family unit can cause.

Of course Apartheid can be blamed for forced relocations, migrant labour and many other factors that must have been at the heart of this collapse in male presence and contribution to the lives of their children, but there is an element of choice and responsibility which should override any decision to have children – especially in 2015. Outdated and supposedly sacred elements of culture (polygamy, power-relations and displays of prosperity) are at least as much to blame as historical and artificial factors. This is perhaps the argument that makes people uncomfortable on Father’s Day – because it’s very hard to argue for cultural practices that cause pain.

A lot of people growing up in South Africa don’t even know who their father is. Knowing where you come from helps you figure out where you’re going to.

Men have to own up to their dereliction of duty and we all have to take on the responsibility others have discarded. “Be a man!”, they used to say.

On Father’s Day – and every other day – try to mentor, guide, heal, encourage and empathise with children who have no idea how it feels to have a dad. If all these angry, unhappy young people in South Africa had just had a hug from their daddy we would have conquered our racial, social, chauvinist problems a long time ago – and women would thank us for it.

TEDx London Business School conference live on

April 24, 2015

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 4:12 am

Broadcast stalwart and founder of, Gareth Cliff is one of 15 speakers who have been invited to participate in the TEDx London Business School conference in London on Friday 24th April.

The event will be live streamed on from 10am until 7.30pm. Gareth will be presenting at 4.30pm.

Gareth’s talk, entitled “Africa’s New Voice” highlights the advent and explosion of digital platforms giving access to freedom of expression.

After more than a decade in traditional radio, Gareth left the medium to spearhead his online content hub.



“Our digital platform changes the game and levels the playing field. We are so much more than an online radio station. We are a multi-faceted content platform, free from traditional media restrictions or BCCSA complaints. Which means we get to stream a conference like this – offering our community access to information that ordinarily is not available to them.”

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a programme called TEDx.

TEDx is a programme of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

Gareth is excited and honoured to be attending the conference.



“I am speaking alongside the likes of Udayan Goyal, Founder of Apis Growth and Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at the London Business School. To be part of a group of speakers of this calibre, is humbling but also re-affirms that we are doing something special with CliffCentral here in South Africa.”

Blood from a stone

April 7, 2015

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 3:58 am

Amidst all the baying for blood (from a stone) and whinging about how painful the sight of Rhodes’ statue has been for the student community at UCT, the weak-willed and illiberal senate there have decided to tear down the edifice of the man who founded the university and replace it with nothing. I hope they feel better. We checked under the bed for a bogeyman and it turns out he’s dead.

But let’s move on:

In the wake of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, Paul Kruger’s statue in Pretoria was defaced, a bronze army memorial in the Eastern Cape was ripped apart; a statue of King George V was doused with paint and mocked and a memorial in Uitenhage set ablaze by erstwhile members of the EFF. This is what we have come to – wanton vandalism and destruction. Well done UCT, you’ve led us to the promised land of ‘abominable’ statuary re-evaluation. What George V or a World War II army memorial have to do with colonialism or apartheid are not so obvious – other than the fact that they’re white people I suppose. Either way, I just feel that same sinking feeling I felt when I heard that the Taliban had dynamited the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan to dust. We really do lose much more than we could ever gain by destruction.

Just to make us all feel even more disappointed the Freedom Front Plus and some little-known Afrikaner group have demanded that Mandela’s statue at the Union Buildings must fall. ‘My history is more important than yours’ is the children’s game we now play with national monuments.

Further to this, it appears the Mandela-Rhodes Scholarship has been terminated. This is a great reward, and well done to the freedom fighters who made it happen. Now you won’t ever have to take your place in an International university or bring back the teachings of the great wide world to South Africa. Let us continue to be distracted by every possible object in our surroundings rather than pass our exams. There was a story last week about female students at the University of Venda signing a combined affidavit that the tokoloshe had impregnated a large group of them and so they were not able to write their exams, and of course definitely didn’t have sex with boys on the campus. Higher education? Well done Blade Nzimande. Professor Jonathan Jansen made a good point about how the people who so vehemently opposed the presence of the Rhodes statue represent anti-education factions. I agree with him. Despite all the squaring of circles made by those defending the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, and despite the word racist being thrown at everyone who disagreed with abject vandalism, history it seems, is not on their side.

Have a look at some of these victories over colonialism, it will surely make you feel that the future is in tolerant hands:

Historical education

March 19, 2015

Filed under: Blog — Gareth @ 7:52 pm

Screen-Shot-2015-03-19-at-6.55When he died, Cecil John Rhodes left some of his enormous wealth to found a prestigious scholarship. Part of his sprawling estate was given over to the establishment of the University of Cape Town and another part to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, a less controversial but more beautiful legacy.

In recent years (in fact it was a question that arose when I visited UCT last year to give a lecture), the presence of a statue of Rhodes has become the focus of a vitriolic campaign against what certain people believe is an offensive monument to a wicked Imperialist who exploited Africans. The latter is obviously true, but then so was the story of King Shaka of the Zulu – who actually killed (sometimes by his own hand) so many Africans that he created anew the map of Eastern South Africa – chasing the Xhosa south and the Swazi north, bringing the disparate zulu clans under his iron rule.

I like the fact that King Shaka has an airport named after him. That doesn’t mean I have to like King Shaka. Cecil John Rhodes may have been the most successful imperialist agent of Victorian Britain, but his contribution to history (let alone education) is unquestionable.

Take the Rhodes statue down, I don’t care. I don’t have a dog in that fight. I’m not a fan of Rhodes and I don’t doubt his politics were appalling. As a student of history, it offends me more to see any modern human being let their feelings (however genuine and serious) attempt to cleanse bloody, ugly history of it’s veracity. I felt the same when they pulled down Saddam’s statue and when they removed Stalin’s body from Red Square. You can’t change the present by whitewashing the past – it’s like a child putting a plaster on a his wound.

It is a hollow victory to defeat those already dead. Rhodes doesn’t care; the French monarchs whose tombs were desecrated by revolutionaries didn’t care and the bones of dead people in unmarked graves are no more troubled by the events of the present than the revered bones of saints. Those doing the desecration however, seldom end up making history themselves. The only way to beat a bad person is to leave your own legacy which makes their legacy look bad.

People are a product of the time in which they live. We can’t judge a person who died a hundred years ago by the enlightened thought and sensitivity of the present. I’m sure people in a hundred years’ time will laugh at our attempts at ascribing value to things we hold dear today but which will be laughable in an age of bionics, interconnectivity and super-technology.

Washington, Adams, Hamilton and Jefferson kept slaves – and yet gave us the Declaration of Independence and birth of modern democracy. Do we throw the baby out with the bathwater and destroy every monument, memorial and building named after them because they did what all men of their time did? I don’t think you’d find one American prepared to start. You can’t cherry pick the qualities of a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person in a historical sense by using your own or even a modern set of parameters. By those standards, every human prior to at least the 1700s was at best a barbarian and certainly all the greatest men and women of history are nothing but despots and greedy slave-owners.

How are we to claim the Pyramids, The Acropolis, The Forum, the Great Wall of China, and Great Zimbabwe as part of our human story if we pretend they weren’t built by the sweat of slaves and the grinding oppression of the slaveowners? To hide the statues and spare a generation three times removed from the event is to do those sufferers an injustice. If a statue hurts you that much, you’re giving too much power to the statue.

We have an opportunity to build new legacies, create new scholarships, enhance our world and add to a horrible history by making a better future. Where are the new Universities Blade Nzimande promised?

This morning I had a Rhodes scholar on my show – Eusebius McKaiser – a man I respect and admire. I like disagreeing with him and I love seeing him debate and deconstruct bad ideas and positions. Though he has an intelligence that doubtless would have come to the fore without it, he is proud to have been a Rhodes scholar. I’m sure he doesn’t have much love for the man who founded the scholarship and didn’t care a damn about his (Eusebius’)ancestors, but that is immaterial. Perhaps Rhodes left this legacy because he felt guilty? Who knows? All I know is that you can never win an argument by emptying human turds on a statue – and you don’t need to be a Rhodes scholar to figure that out.

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