While We Were Sleeping  #SparrowGate2


 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 – CliffCentral.com. 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 CliffCentral.com, or download the CliffCentral app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.  

Viva #unscripted #uncensored #unradio Viva!


  1. Tania says:

    Right. Ready Mr Meyers?

  2. Meg says:

    You are destined for great things regardless of what people say or do. #unraido

  3. Zimisele Mnyaka says:

    Eish, TaGareth, it’s tough. I think you were the target of misplaced anger from black people. Who really suffer from racism, some on a daily basis. Unfortunately your position made you vulnerable to such an attack. And I think those people are so frustrated from the likes of Sparrow, because there are some white racists who say deeply hurtful things. I just think we’ve reached a tipping point where people feel consequences for such things have to be dished out. Personally I feel like not a lot of white people rebuke their peers when such things are said, instead those who do comment support such views. I know you spoke against sparrow’s comment. So I commend you for such.
    I’ve listened to you since 2003. I know for sure that you’re no racist!!!!

  4. Fanie says:

    Fuck yes bro, people are confused and not simulated. Big up G, love your show. 2016 will be another year of great change. Let’s put RSA back on the map where we rightly belong. #fuckit #unreal 2016 for the win. Every person that wants to achieve will do so…

  5. Vince says:

    Gareth, what strikes me most, is not the fact that you have been removed from Idols, but that you still vote ANC ! What were you thinking on the day that they bumped off Thabo Mbeki in favour of the present incumbent. Since he took power, he wiggled his way out of serious charges, to which we have no finality even today, or might not even have. What about all the other undemocratic moves, behind Luthuli House closed doors, to protect this man at all costs and for what ? Look at the state of this country, look at the height of racial tentions, last seen pre 1994. The recent debacle around the appointments of the minister of finance. And so everything compounds, into this massive failure, that we call the ANC. Twenty-one years on and people still live in squaller, most have no meaningful employment. Crime is so out of control, we have become desensitized to the most horrible reports of murders. ( Rhodes Park is fresh in my mind ). I’m not even mentioning Nkandla, Gutagate, Arms Deal, Tenderpreneurs, Cadre deployment and the pending Nuclear deal. Of all which this man was pivotal. What is your thinking ? Why hoping for better, when better is clearly not on the menu.You should blame yourself and keep on blaming yourself and not look at others for answers. They just puppets in this game we call politics. Keep on voting ANC Mr, Cliff, and you will deserve what you receive. My eyes opened a long time ago… I hope your conscience one day will do the same.

  6. @MinisterHoliday says:

    Well, thank God I read this and Understood your side of the story, Debate is needed, the way its hot and unemployment is raising like Temperature… People tend to direct their anger and for them just to feel Good by causing unnecessary frictions to the things that need Debate…!

  7. @MinisterHoliday says:

    I am even afraid of posting criticisms/Debate on Social media

  8. Angie says:

    I have been called much worse than monkey. On Wednesday I wanted to punch you for implying that free speech gives some people the right to do this and there is no resource for those on the receiving end. But it was a tweet. Maybe you need more than ten words to explain. Should any of us be judged by our last tweet (if it was not openly racist like the fools who started this)? I think not. Hope this turns around for you. MTN should have waited for people to calm down.

  9. Tsundzu says:


  10. Jonathan says:

    Hey Gareth, maybe you should have started with a constructive engagement and i bet we would have been a better South Africa now than we are my white brother. Let’s not cry over spilled milk and work towards rebuilding our society.

  11. Q says:

    Thanks for this G. I was one of those who was not angry but disappointed in what you tweeted. But then again, one can’t even compare what you wrote in this and what you tweeted. I think we (black people) were/still are angry at what that other person wrote! All the best with the central! I will be tuned in…

    Sharp G.

  12. Nice post dear and thanks for this great post

  13. Qwerty Asdf says:

    First time I’ve visited your blog… You may not even read this but I felt I needed to comment!!

    I’ve never been a radio person, but I always loved how controversial you are. That said, I’ve also never felt that you were racist… Crude? Perhaps; but the thing I loved was how fresh your take on things were/are. Media needs people like you who say it as it is and don’t allow the masses to bully them! Good for you Gareth!

    We’ve become too hung up on words. We’ve become the classic “VICTICM” because we allow words to have so much power over us. *By “us” I mean “Black folk”.
    Just because someone calls me a monkey doesn’t make me one!
    What someone says about me doesn’t define who I am. That is on the inside of me! If I allow a word to anger me – surely it must mean that I’m still hung up on the past… The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past. But – can we really forget the past? We shouldn’t – but we should move forward and stop living there!

    It’s up to us (as a People) to rise above and stop letting WORDS have so much power over us! Of course – White folk need to stop using words that they know will upset people!! 

    RACISTS and RACISM MUST FALL! Definitely!
    But so should mental colonialism!!
    And, Black folk also need to stop being overly sensitive and stop this mob justice syndrome. Even in the townships – folk necklace each other based on opinions while no one bothers to find out the truth for themselves anymore?!
    It’s quite a pity too, that a Minister can be allowed to say such things and incite that kind of reaction. Is this not similar to how Xenophobic attacks started? At the words of that ignorant Zulu King? But I digress…

    I’m not even South African but I am a Child of Africa. While I may not have personally experienced slavery, racism, colonialism or apartheid first hand – I do feel the pain of Black Consciousness – mother Africa’s pangs for all the horrors afflicted on her children.

    I also feel pain for what I see the current ANC government is doing to this country. I feel pain for what every African Government is doing to its country. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Burundi, DRC, Nigeria…etc etc.
    These old men who liberated their people from the Colonialist but continue to loot the very people they liberated?
    It’s time for us, the Youth, to liberate ourselves from these evil and corrupt men who continue to loot, plunder and steal – with no regard for the folk on the ground.

    But again, I digress….
    Don’t go back to Idols…screw them! You’re a bright shining star and nothing will stop you! Take care and don’t apologize for being YOU! #FreeSpeech #FreedomOfExpression #JusticeForGareth

  14. […] You can read the full article Here on Gareth Cliffs Blog […]

  15. Funtown says:

    Firstly why is everybody reacting to Penny Sparrow? Why is her opinion so important? Lots of people, says lots of hurtfully things on the internet. How will you ever regulate them?
    I think there is much more behind this media explosion than meets the eye. Anyone who says anything will be in the crossfire.
    Racism is a easy way to distract everyone.

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