Press Statement

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!


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