Gareth Cliff's lawyers won't pursue defamation lawsuit

Cliff was fired from talent search show, Idols, for a tweet on free speech that caused public outrage.

Media personality Gareth Cliff looks on during a press conference in Johannesburg on 30 January 2016 after the courts ruled that he be reinstated as a judge on tv show 'Idols'. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Gareth Cliffs lawyers say they won't be pursuing a R25 million defamation lawsuit against M-Net.

Cliff was fired from talent search show, Idols, for a tweet on free speech that caused public outrage.

While a High Court ruling granted the first part of Cliff's application for him to be reinstated, his lawyers say they won't be going through with the second part which calls for monetary compensation.

Cliff's attorney Eric Mabuza said his team is extending a hand of friendship to M-Net.

"We're extending a hand of friendship, saying bygones be bygones."

He said the broadcasters conduct from here on will dictate whether cliff takes more legal action.

"We still have that part of the defamation still hanging, so we'll be monitoring their conduct from now on and it will be depended on how they behave whether we proceed with the other part of our case."

But for now Mabuza and Cliff both agree its best that the radio personality to focus on his duties as an Idols judge.

Cliff also reiterated that he wants to let bygones be bygones.

"I want to make this clear: I do not hold a grudge against M-Net or its parent companies."

He said he is looking forward to resuming his duties as an Idols judge.

"There are talented and not-so-talented people lining up in Durban right now waiting to be heard and discovered for their big break and I'm waiting to meet them too."

Cliff has again apologised to those who were offended by him tweeting that people don't understand free speech after Penny Sparrow put up a Facebook post calling black people monkeys.


M-Net said it welcomes Cliff back as an Idols judge and looks forward to the 12th season of the show with him on board.

M-Net CEO Yolisa Phahle said based on the turnout of today's auditions in Durban, it expects to have a successful season.

"The turnout has be phenomenal and it looks like we're literally going to have the best and biggest season of Idols yet."

She said Cliff's comments at his press briefing today show he has reflected on the legal battle over his axing.

"We can see that it's clear he's had time to reflect on activities that exist in South Africa today. We are looking forward to a fantastic show."

Cliff will rejoin fellow judges on Wednesday to resume duties.


Earlier, M-Net broke its silence on the outcome of Cliff's case, saying it will uphold the High Court ruling and reinstate the popular DJ as a judge on the 12th season of Idols.

The broadcaster said it won't appeal the judgment handed down by the High Court in Johannesburg to reinstate Cliff.

Despite the broadcaster's assertions that it didn't have a contract with Cliff, the court found that the two parties did have an agreement which was not upheld.

The court ruled that regardless of the nature of Cliff's tweet, all contractual obligations have to be upheld.

But it said it doesn't believe it made a mistake by removing him as an Idols judge to begin with.

The radio personality argued that the way his contract was terminated was unlawful. However M-Net maintained it didn't have a contract with him, making his dismissal fair.

Cliff's reinstatement is, however, temporary, meaning the constitutionality of his axing will have to be argued in court at a later stage.