Johannesburg - Six days after Gareth Cliff was victorious in a massive case of breach of contract and defamation against M-Net, the judging panel of season 12 of Idols South Africa seems unaffected by the controversy.
On Friday Judge Caroline Nicholls ruled that Cliff be reinstated as a judge on the popular singing competition with immediate effect, saying it was a contractual dispute and that M-Net had to pay costs.
In a press conference at CliffCentral.com in Johannesburg on Saturday, Cliff reiterated that his relationship with his fellow judges, Unathi Msengana, Somizi Mhlongo and Randall Abrahams was unaffected by the case. "We've known each other for a long time and we have become friends. Somizi has a show here on CliffCentral."
However, he did point out that he had not "thrown them under the bus" saying it was M-Net who brought Somizi and Unathi's previous indiscretions on social media to light in a press statement. M-Net fired Cliff from the show for his remarks on comments made by estate agent, Penny Sparrow.
There were immediately questions over previous social media incidents involving Unathi and Somizi, to which M-Net responded saying, "Over the last few months following Unathi's indiscretions on social media, we have been in discussions with our judges, presenters and talent to sensitize them to the pitfalls of using social media. Unfortunately we then had to deal with Somizi’s inappropriate comments, and following the latest issue we have now implemented a zero tolerance policy. This policy will apply to everyone associated with our brands going forward. We do not believe that Gareth is a racist, but his response showed a deep lack of empathy for our history and it is important to differentiate between freedom of speech and hate speech. Penny Sparrows comments were hateful. Hate speech is not applicable with regard to freedom of speech."
Cliff told journalists at a press briefing that he was waiting for his schedule regarding the Idols auditions. On the pending R25m lawsuit against the broadcaster, Cliff's lawyer Erik Mabuza said a decision had yet to be made. "We have extended the hand of friendship and depending on how the relationship is going forward, we will make a decision."
On Tuesday night ProVerb, the host of the show posted this picture of himself with the judges out at dinner.