Bloemfontein’s Biebers dump Cliff

2013-04-28 14:00

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Radio DJ Gareth Cliff has been dumped by Bloemfontein’s answer to Justin Bieber.

After a successful trip to New York organised by the Idols judge and Cliff’s manager, Rina Broomberg, singer Vicus Visser and his brother, Vincent, gave up their lives in Sandton and moved back to Bloemfontein.

They also gave up the bursaries they received from Boston Media House and dropped out of school.

Cliff found the talented youngsters in the township of Heidedal in 2010 after a search of several months, prompted by local and international record companies that were searching for Vicus, the 10-year-old YouTube sensation.

His video, a cover of All-4-One’s These Arms, was recorded nine years ago, when Vicus was 10.

It had lain dormant for years, but finally went viral on YouTube.

Cliff’s website says Vicus received “offers ... locally and from abroad”, but he and Broomberg agreed to “manage and mentor” him and his elder brother after their parents became concerned about their schooling.

The brothers moved to Joburg last year and the home-schooled Vicus finished matric and started recording his album with David Gresham Records.

The South African embassy in Washington, DC, invited the two to perform there and in New York in February, during Black History Month celebrations.

The trip went well and the brothers were meant to continue their education after receiving bursaries from Boston Media House.

But then things went off script.

Broomberg says they stopped attending classes and were soon deregistered. This week, they packed up their things in their rented Sandton home and moved back to Heidedal – and Cliff and Broomberg say they have little idea why.

Vicus did not respond to requests for comment this week and their mother, Elsie Peters, declined to comment.

Broomberg, who also spoke on Cliff’s behalf, blamed American public relations strategist Debbie Asrate.

“We let them stay with her for a night or two in America. Now she’s taken them over. But we didn’t feel she was very connected and had that much to offer. She has tried to cut Gareth out and has offered them the American Dream,” she said.

“But we basically already gave them that.”

Broomberg added that their main sponsor, cellphone company 8ta, wanted to sponsor the brothers again this year, “even though they would have started making money”.

“We’re hoping it’s a phase and we’ve tried to stay on good terms with the family. But this woman in the US, we won’t work with her under any circumstances. She can’t offer what they had. A lot has been taken away from them,” she said.

Broomberg claims Asrate told the Vissers she was “concerned for their safety”, and claimed she and Cliff were “threatening to send them back to Heidedal if they didn’t continue studying”.

Broomberg said: “If anything, we overprotected them. We had a contract in place, but always said they were free to leave whenever they wanted. We’re still paying the rent on the Sandton place. If they want to come back, we’ll find someone to manage them. We were going to hand them over to a professional manager this year anyway.”

Asrate, who says she has been closely involved with the Visser family for two years and also only wants the best for the brothers, replied: “We will issue a major announcement about their future soon. What I will say is that what you have been told is an unfortunate and gross exaggeration, at best. We are not interested in a war of words with Rina or anyone. We’ll address all the false statements – there will be many – in due time.”

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