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Sat Jun 25 10:44:33 CAT 2016

'We can't have Idols auditions with protesters outside saying we employ racists'

Nomahlubi Jordaan | 26 January, 2016 14:17
Gareth Cliff. File photo.
Image by: Bafana Mahlangu

The fact that there was a public perception that former Idols judge Gareth Cliff is a racist, was enough for M-Net to say it did not want him representing its brand.

This was Advocate Wim Trengove’s argument on behalf of M-Net in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday [26-01-2016] in an application in which Cliff is asking for reinstatement. Alternatively, Cliff wants R25-million in damages for defamation of character and the termination of his contract.

M-Net axed Cliff as a judge for the 12th season of the South African version of the talent show earlier this month after a public outcry over a remark he posted on social network Twitter. In the wake of the Penny Sparrow racism row, Cliff tweeted that "people don't understand free speech at all".

Trengove argued that it was highly impractical for Cliff to argue that the court should compel M-Net to have him as a judge on the reality show after the tweet.

“How can he compel M-Net to have somebody [in their employ] who represents racism?”

He argued that Cliff’s prayer to be reinstated was meaningless because there had been no contract between the parties.

Even if there had been a contract, M-Net would have terminated it within a week, Trengove said.

“We can't have Idols auditions with protestors [outside] saying we employ racists.”

He said M-Net was responding to the public call for a boycott of its channels because of Cliff’s utterance.

Earlier on Tuesday, Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing Cliff, said both parties agreed that Cliff was not a racist and instead the case was about the enforcement of contractual right.

He said a contract existed between Cliff and M-Net and in terminating the contract, M-Net violated Cliff's constitutional rights.

He led the court through a series of e-mails exchanged between Cliff and M-Net in December in which M-Net informed Cliff that his contract to be a judge on the upcoming season of Idols would be sent to him once it was in hand. The e-mails contained dates of this year's auditions for the show and also promised Cliff a 6% increase in pay to R377 530.

He said M-Net did not meet the requirements for termination in the contract because it failed to give notice of the termination, reasons for it and make a payment.

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