Gareth Cliff | Idols South Africa

Gareth Cliff, Idols SA Judge

Gareth Cliff is a South African radio and television personality, he was a judge on Idols South Africa for eleven consecutive seasons.


Full Name:Gareth Rhydal Cliff
Date of Birth:26 August 1977
Age:46 years
Place of Birth:Pretoria, South Africa


Cliff began his professional radio career at 702, and later became the host of the breakfast show on 5FM. During his career at 5FM, his show included a feature called The Hollywood Report with Jen Su.

In 2014, Gareth launched Cliff Central, an online content hub that specialises in podcasting and online radio. His former 5FM breakfast team, Leigh-Ann Mol, Damon Kalvari, and Mabale Moloi joined him in the new venture, and initially featured as part of his team on The Gareth Cliff Show.

Blind History – a podcast series produced by CliffCentral and hosted by Gareth Cliff and Anthony Mederer — was nominated for a New York Festivals Radio Award in 2019 for Best Education podcast.

Idols SA Lawsuit

On Friday, January 8, 2016, M-Net fired Cliff from his role as Idols SA judge following his comments about a race debate around estate agent, Penny Sparrow who is a white woman. Responding to questions on whether to criminalize racist posts on social media, Gareth Cliff tweeted: “People really don’t understand free speech at all.” Thousands of Twitter users then lashed out at him, with calls to boycott Idols SA. Gareth apologised and later released a blog post asking for constructive engagement.

M-Net then revealed that it would be reviewing Cliff’s future work on the show, and in the early hours of Friday, January 8, 2016, they released a statement confirming that Gareth Cliff would no longer be part of the judging panel.

On Monday, January 11, 2016, while speaking on his show on CliffCentral, Gareth Cliff spoke about his dismissal from Idols SA saying that M-Net gave in to the mob but hinted on taking legal action.

“To be fired over this whole mess does seem unfair. M-Net has said as much. They said I’m not a racist. You have to seek legal opinion on these things. It will be interesting to hear what my lawyers say,” Cliff stated.

Gareth actually wanted his job back and R25 million for defamation and breach of contract.

On Tuesday, January 26, 2016, Gareth Cliff won a lawsuit against M-Net at the high court in Johannesburg where he was represented by lawyers Dali Mpofu, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, Eric Mabuza and Frances Hobden while M-Net was represented by a 14-man legal team.

The case did not deal directly with Cliff’s comments, but on whether he had a contract with M-Net. Judge Caroline Nicholls found that there was a binding contract between Gareth and M-Net, therefore the judge ruled in his favour and ordered that he is reinstated as a judge on Idols SA.

His lawyer Dali Mpofu argued that Cliff’s sacking was the worst form of racism, while M-Net’s Wim Trengove tried to convince the court that the broadcaster didn’t have a contract with Cliff.

“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 a packed court.

Gareth was dressed smartly in a dark suit and smiled as the ruling, which lasted four minutes, was read out.

Gareth Cliff and his lawyer Dali Mpofu after winning the Idols SA lawsuit against M-net
Gareth Cliff and his lawyer Dali Mpofu going to lunch to celebrate after winning the lawsuit against M-Net.

On Monday, November 14, 2016, Gareth Cliff resigned from his role as Idols SA judge and announced the news on his Facebook page. He wrote: “It’s time! After eleven seasons of Idols, it’s time for me to say goodbye. What better way to bring this chapter to a close than a trip to New York and meeting American Idols judge Harry Connick Jr and being on his post-Idols show.”

Gareth wrote an autobiography entitled, Cliffhanger: Confessions of a Shock Jock, published in November 2016.