Gareth Cliff. (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - E-mails between an Idols producer and the talent show's former judge Gareth Cliff on Tuesday formed the basis of his challenge against M-Net, in the High Court in Johannesburg.
Cliff's lawyer, Dali Mpofu, produced e-mails in which he was informed that the dates for the next season had been finalised and that M-Net was working on getting his contract for the 2016 season to him.
"Whether a contract is oral or written, it has exactly the same binding effect," Mpofu said, arguing that the e-mails proved there was a contract between the two parties.
Cliff was excluded from this year's season shortly after he tweeted a response to the uproar caused by KwaZulu-Natal realtor Penny Sparrow's racist Facebook post earlier this month. She called black New Year's day revellers monkeys.
Mpofu argued that Cliff was dismissed for his tweet that Sparrow had a right to freedom of speech.
"Had there been no tweet, we were good to go."
M-Net released a statement several days ago, in which it said it had informed its Idols judges that it would have no tolerance for hate speech or anything which cast the channel in a bad light.
Mpofu argued that Cliff's dismissal was unlawful and that nothing entitled M-Net to interfere with Cliff's freedom of speech.
"It would make a mockery of the Constitution. Such a contract would be unenforceable," he added.
Mpofu told the court that M-Net had failed to tell Cliff why it terminated his contract.
"We were in the dark. Even in the public announcement it... [was] not said that you breached this or that and therefore we are cancelling your contract."
Mpofu said that in contractual terms, there had to be a reason for termination, a notice period, and payment of the notice period.
He said he wanted the court to show M-Net that agreements had to be complied with.
"You cannot come up with stories about empathy, which is what they are saying. The truth has come out in the papers that they were protecting their commercial and business interests."
Mpofu said he did not want the upcoming Idols show to be delayed. He wanted the court to order that Cliff be reinstated ahead of the show's auditions starting Friday.
The matter continues.