The High Court on Friday 29 January, 2016 ruled in favour of Gareth Cliff, ordering M-Net to give him back his job as a judge on the talent search TV show Idols with immediate effect.
The axed Idols judge Gareth Cliff won a huge lawsuit against M-Net just hours before the first auditions for the show were to start. Judge Caroline Nicholls ruled over the case in the High Court in Johannesburg.
“This is a contractual dispute. The contractual relationship has to be reinstated to what it was. M-Net will pay costs to Gareth Cliff,” Nicholls told the court.
The local broadcaster M-Net decided to fire Gareth Cliff after he commented that people did not understand freedom of speech at the height of the outburst of comments over a racist post by former KwaZulu-Natal realtor Penny Sparrow.
Cliff’s tweet created an uproar on social media and this led to M-Net’s decision to sack him, saying it did not want anything to do with a racist. Cliff forwarded an urgent application calling for his dismissal from M-Net to be reversed.
After thorough examination, Judge Caroline Nicholls found the email conversations between Gareth Cliff and Idols producers binding.
She says Cliff’s legal team has provided sufficient evidence that there was indeed a contractual agreement and that was enough for the court to order for his immediate reinstatement.
M-Net has agreed to the notion that the motive for his dismissal was the public outrage his tweet generated which created an image of him as a supporter of racism.
On the other hand, Nicholls says the matter was not about racism or free speech but simply whether or not the broadcaster contravened an existing contract signed by the duo.
Gareth Cliff has contributed immensely to the success of the talent search show which he joined in 2005. Auditions for Idols 2016 will begin at The Playhouse in Durban on Saturday.