Gareth Cliff: I hope we can engage constructively

2016-01-07 20:10
Gareth Cliff. (Gallo Images/Idols)

Johannesburg - Gareth Cliff has responded to calls to boycott him, as well as online users calling him a racist.

Earlier this week, Gareth got backlash after commenting on estate agent, Penny Sparrow's comments about black people.

In a Facebook post, Penny referred to black people as monkeys. She has since gone to ground after being harassed on social media as well as members of the public hounding her family and friends. It was earlier reported that she was admitted to hospital for 'stress.'

Gareth, meanwhile, faced backlash after he was responding to a poll on Twitter on whether to criminalise racist social media posts. Gareth replied saying, "People don't really understand free speech at all."

Twitter was angry with his response, calling on M-Net to ditch him as an Idols SA judge and for people to boycott his online radio station.

According to IOL, M-Net CEO Yolisa Phahle confirmed that Gareth's future employment with the company was being reviewed.

Now, in a lengthy statement, Gareth has responded, appealing to engage in a constructive conversation.

Here is the full blog post:

2016 has started painfully. I’m a white guy and I’m mindful that I inherit a system biased in my favour, but I’m also a passionate South African - and have been outspoken on matters to do with the country because I care so much.I’m not a member of any political party. The only membership I have is of the Mamelodi Sundowns fan club, which I joined when I was 15. In 1994, I was still at school and too young to vote. Since the General Election of 1999, I have only ever voted for the ANC - with the exception of one election where I wasted my vote on COPE. I kept voting ANC, even when I became disillusioned with the President and the executive - mostly because I believed in what the ANC stood for.Over the years I have taken a lot of abuse for my views - I’ve even received death threats. I’ve always regarded this as an exercise of freedom of speech - in a country where freedom of speech had not existed prior to 1994. In the light of #Sparrowgate and the ensuing controversy, I have come to understand that what I have been tolerating is hate speech.

Read it again and assess for yourself whether such a disproportionate outrage is called for.Calls to boycott me and even the TV show Idols came in the wake of this lynch-mob that directed their fury at me. In an effort to clarify things, I apologised for the confusion, which sadly only led to more vitriol.I certainly appreciate the need to obtain greater clarity on what the limits of free speech and the parameters of hate speech really are. I’m also grateful that people like Pinky Khoabane, Sizwe Dhlomo, Professor Jonathan Jansen, Advocate Dali Mpofu and DJ Fresh sought to constructively engage me on the matter. We all know that there are blurred lines in the sensitive context of race relations in South Africa.At this moment, I feel disappointed in how the conversation sometimes gets hijacked by angry and emotional people on Twitter, who have no desire to add value. We should not be deterred from continuing the discussions we need to have to build a better South Africa.When the dust settles, I hope that we can engage constructively - tell our stories, share our ideas and LISTEN to each other. Don’t be bullied. Don’t tolerate racism. Let’s keep talking.

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