From ‘Idols’ contestants to politicians, they’re fair game for Gareth Cliff

2009-04-17 00:00

From making fun of Idols contestants to making fun of candidates in the upcoming election, 5fm’s Gareth Cliff never holds back and that’s what we love about him. Weekend Witness spoke to the Idols judge about politics (both on Idols and in the country).

“For some reason a lot of people are afraid to express themselves, or worse, have nothing to say,” said the 5fm breakfast show presenter.

Cliff said this is probably the reason that he was approached to be a judge of M-Net’s Idols in the first place.

“I’m sure everyone sits at home and judges the contestants, but for some reason they freeze up when you put a camera in front of them,” he said. “I suppose most people are just afraid of being judged themselves.”

He said he nearly decided against doing Idols this year, but decided to “because we’re a kind of family now”.

“It’s nice to sit there and laugh, cry and enjoy the talent again,” he said. “If it were boring for me, it would probably be worse for you watching the show, which it clearly isn’t. Idols is a phenomenon.”

This season of Idols has raised more eyebrows than any other in the show’s history, especially when it came to allegations of race playing a big part in contestants being voted out. Cliff said it is disappointing that racism managed to find its way on to “a fun TV show”.

“It’s unfortunate that a really fun TV show should have to be politicised, but South Africa is legitimately obsessed with race,” said Cliff. “It’s sad that some of the talented contestants have to suffer as a result of the system ... If it’s getting us talking, ultimately that’s a good thing.”

Talking is what turned this Maritzburg boy into a household name. Topics on his show have caused quite a stir over the years. “I think people who listen to the show like that,” he said. “I don’t try to be right or balanced all the time ... [but] I’m the first to acknowledge my own faults and inadequacies.”

Cliff has been very vocal about the upcoming elections on his show, especially regarding presidential candidate Jacob Zuma.

“I’m not anti-ANC at all,” he added. “There are many things which I really like about the ANC ... It would be linear to pigeonhole my broad opinions into pro- or anti-ANC positions.”

Cliff also said he does not believe in party loyalty: “I’m individualistic.

“You must ask yourself these questions too, don’t just let the politicians decide for you. We need to mature our democracy ... There is much work to be done,” he said. “Service delivery and strong leadership are more essential than ever .

“Widespread corruption and incompetence in government means that many people have lost faith in the leadership,” he added. “Confident, caring, careful use of power can bring some balance and positively change people’s lives. Having said that, I think the Mbeki administration did much good.”

When asked whom he’d be voting for on Wednesday, Cliff said, “I’m not avoiding your question, I haven’t decided.” Catch Cliff next Saturday at Franki Bananaz (PMB).

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