On Saturday morning Idols SA fans were shocked to hear that Gareth Cliff would not be part of the judging panel for the 12th season of the show, which commences at the end of January.
Cliff, who has served as a judge on Idols SA since 2003, was removed from the show’s judging panel following his Twitter comments, which appeared to defend racist comments made by real estate agent Penny Sparrow on Facebook, where she referred to black people as monkeys.
Seemingly angered by the littering that occurred on the beach as thousands of beachgoers celebrated the new year last week, Penny Sparrow said allowing ‘these monkeys’ (black people) loose on public beaches was inviting huge dirt, troubles and discomfort to others. “From now I shall address the blacks of South Africa as monkeys as I see the cute little wild monkeys do the same – pick, drop and litter,” she added.
Sparrow’s comments sparked outrage among South Africans. Hundreds took to Twitter to express their anger. DA leader Mmusi Maimane said “
#PennySparrow comments are racist. They are an insult to me and to our party. We have too many of these in SA & we must criminalize these.” Later another Twitter user, Roman Cabanac, ran a poll asking whether racist social media posts should be criminalised. Sixty two percent of those who voted thought racist posts should be criminalised. Gareth Cliff retweeted the poll and said, “People really don’t understand free speech at all.” Apparently, this comment was construed as defending Sparrow’s racist comments and is what got Cliff into hot water. He was heavily criticized for being racist. Angry Twitter users vowed to boycott Idols SA and his internet radio station, CliffCentral.
Cliff apologised for being insensitive and made it clear that he was against what Sparrow said. However, following calls to boycott Idols SA, he was removed as a judge. M-Net thanked him for the role he has played in seeking out and developing new talent and for contributing to the success of the show.