Will Gareth feel the love on set?
Reinstated Idols judge Gareth Cliff is holding out the olive branch, but at least two of his fellow judges don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to grab it
Gareth Cliff may not be harbouring any resentment against M-Net and want bygones to be bygones, but the controversial shock jock may face some unhappiness from his colleagues when he returns to work on Wednesday. After Cliff held a press conference at his CliffCentral studios in Rivonia yesterday, a highly placed insider close to one of the judges told City Press that “things are not as rosy” on the Idols SA set.
“The other Idols judges, [particularly] Unathi Msengana and Somizi Mhlongo, are not happy with Gareth for dragging them into his racial debacle. If you follow them on social media, you would have noticed that neither has even said well done for winning the case,” she said.
Both Msengana and Mhlongo have breathed not a word about Cliff on Twitter. When approached for comment yesterday, all Mhlongo would say was: “I don’t want to comment on Gareth.”
Msengana did not respond to phone calls or SMSes.
Insiders on the Idols production team say they do not know of any potential bad blood on set.
Last week, Cliff accused M-Net of double standards, arguing in his court application that the broadcaster did not take the same harsh action against Msengana and Mhlongo, who both caused public outrage for controversial things they said last year.
During the #ZumaMustFall campaign in December last year, Mhlongo voiced his opinion on Instagram about “racist white South Africans hoping that Zuma’s fall will give them a white president or bring back apartheid”.
And in August, Msengana was embroiled in a spat with a Twitter follower in which she used vulgar language.
M-Net tried to dismiss Cliff’s claims, saying the controversy generated by Msengana and Mhlongo was not comparable to the statement Cliff made on Twitter in response to public outrage against KwaZulu-Natal estate agent Penny Sparrow’s comments likening black people on beaches to monkeys. Cliff protested that people “just do not understand free speech”.
At his press conference yesterday, Cliff said: “I do not hold a grudge against M-Net and have asked that bygones be bygones.
“There are great people who suffered for our right to free expression; people like Nelson Mandela. Who am I to say anything different?”
Cliff is expected back at work on Wednesday after the South Gauteng High Court ruled in his favour on Friday, ordering M-Net to reinstate him.
Before handing down judgment, Judge Caroline Nicholls told the court the subject matter was not racism, freedom of expression or hate speech, but dealt with solely a contractual agreement.
“Gareth Cliff seeks interim reinstatement of the contractual relationship between the parties, to what it was on January 6 2016,” she said.
Nicholls ruled: “I am of the view that the communication between the parties, as well as their conduct, is supportive of Cliff’s contention that a contractual relationship between M-Net and Cliff existed. He has therefore made a prima facie case for temporary reinstatement.”
M-Net confirmed yesterday it would reinstate Cliff as per the court order.
Nondumiso Mabece, head of public relations at Mzansi Magic, said: “As a good corporate citizen that respects the rule of law, M-Net will reinstate Cliff as a judge on season 12 of Idols SA.
“We believe we did the right thing by taking Mr Cliff off the show. We remain committed to using [our] platforms to contribute to a united South Africa,” she added.
On the issue of the R25 million lawsuit, Cliff’s lawyer Eric Mabuza said: “He has 60 days to decide whether he wants to continue with the lawsuit.”
BACK FOR NOW
Gareth Cliff rejoins the Idols SA judging panel on Wednesday