M-Net confirms it will have Gareth Cliff back as an Idols judge

30 January 2016 - 12:09 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Gareth Cliff leaves court with his lawyer, Advocate Dali Mpofu.
Gareth Cliff leaves court with his lawyer, Advocate Dali Mpofu.
Image: Gallo Images

Gareth Cliff will be back in the hot seat as Idols judge in the coming week.

M-Net confirmed late on Friday that it will reinstate Cliff as ordered by the court.

M-Net axed Cliff as judge on the reality TV 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".

Judge Caroline Nicholls ordered the shock jock's reinstatement on Friday morning, ruling that there had been a contract between him and M-Net and M-Net could not terminate it without following the correct procedure.

Cliff's attorney, Eric Mabuza, said outside court after the ruling that Cliff would not be part of the preliminary auditions on Saturday, but would be present at the main auditions on February 3.

The first auditions for the show will be held in Durban on Saturday.

Uncertainty about Cliff's future on the show lingered because M-Net's legal counsel said in court on Tuesday that the channel no longer wanted Cliff as a judge on the show.

Advocate Wim Trengove said the contract with Idols judges allowed M-Net to dismiss a judge with five days' notice and it could do so even if the court ordered Cliff's reinstatement.

But on Friday evening, M-Net spokeswoman Nondumiso Macebe said M-Net, "as a good corporate citizen that respects the rule of law", would reinstate Cliff as ordered by the court.

"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, " Macebe said.

Cliff brought an urgent application in the Johannesburg High Court on Tuesday, asking the court to order M-Net to reinstate him as Idols judge or pay him R25-million in damages for defamation of character and the termination of his contract.

Trengove argued on behalf of M-Net that there was no contract between the broadcaster and Cliff but merely talks over a possible contract. Therefore, he said, M-Net was free to decide it did not want Cliff representing it on Idols any longer.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, for Cliff, said the e-mails exchanged between M-Net and Cliff's agent constituted a contract, which M-Net terminated irregularly.

Nicholls found that it was “disingenuous” of M-Net to deny that an agreement existed between Idols judge Gareth Cliff and the broadcaster.

Nicholls said if one had regard to the e-mails exchanged between Cliff’s agent and M-Net, it was clear there had been previous discussions regarding this year’s season of Idols and Cliff’s participation in it.

“If not an oral agreement, then there was a tacit agreement that Cliff would be an Idols judge. The conduct of both parties is evidence of this,” Nicholls said.

Cliff said he was pleased with the judgment and he would have a press conference on Saturday.