Gareth Cliff

Gareth Cliff is a South African radio DJ and television personality who is best known for his radio breakfast show on SABC Radio’s 5FM weekdays which he hosted until 2014. He was a judge on M-Net’s reality television-music competition show, Idols,  since it’s second season in 2003 and was fired on January 8, 2016 in the wake of Penny Sparrow racism row.

Born Gareth Rhydal Cliff
August 26, 1977
Pretoria, Gauteng
South Africa
Occupation Radio DJ
TV Personality
Since 1996 – to date
Agent Unknown
Website Unknown

Gareth Cliff was born in Pretoria in the Gauteng province of South Africa. Writing on his blog, Cliff said he attended primary school, high school and university in Pretoria.

Gareth Cliff started his radio career a Tuks Radio where he was working as a DJ from 1996 to 1998 before moving to Talk Radio 702 where he worked as a producer from 1998 to 1999.

In 2001 Gareth Cliff became a DJ on Talk Radio 702 where he had been a producer. He remained there until 2003.

In 2003 he joined the second season of Idols, an international format  reality television-music competition show which airs on M-Net. Gareth Cliff was fired on January 8, 2016 in the wake of Penny Sparrow racism row.

In that year Gareth Cliff joined SABC radio’s 5FM and embarked on a journey that was marked with great success and controversy.

In March 2014 he announce that he was leaving the station, “After two suspensions and several close-shaves, dozens of Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA complaints and almost as many management changes at the SABC, it’s time to get unhinged,” Cliff said.

In 2009 Cliff hosted The Gareth Cliff Show, an M-Net talk show which premiered on September 26. The first season lasted for 13 episodes and the show was not renewed for the second season.

In May 2013 Cliff was one of the people who presented awards to the winners at the 19th Annual South African Music Awards (SAMAs). He also had a cameo appearance on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb.

Cliff Central fingerIn 2014 following his departure from 5FM along with his team and subsequently being replaced with DJ Fresh, Gareth Cliff and his 5FM exodus created a live streaming website,, for his own radio show, that show was filmed for a reality show called The Gareth Cliff Show Live on Comedy Central.

As of June 2014 The Gareth Cliff Show Live was cancelled by Comedy Central, it was reported that Comedy Central will stop airing the show due to its failure to attract sufficient viewership to remain on air.

The people including Cliff dismissed the reports of cancellation, insisting that the decision to stop airing The Gareth Cliff Show on Comedy Central was mutual. “We mutually agreed to surrender the TV show. We (CliffCentral) felt it was fragmenting our audience rather than consolidating it,” Gareth Cliff said. Cliff and his team remain on air through, an online radio platform and WeChat.




Year Title Role Notes
2003 – 2015 Idols Himself Judge, TV music competition
2009 The Gareth Cliff Show Himself Host, Talk Show
2013 19th SAMAs Himself Presenter, Awards Show
2013 Phineas and Ferb Cameo Animated Series
2014 The Gareth Cliff Show Live Himself Simulcast Radio Show



Controversies and Run-ins with the Law

Since joining 5FM, Gareth Cliff has attracted a lot of controversy. In 2004 prior to the opening of Mel Gibson’s highly controversial The Passion of the Christ, Cliff “Interviewed Jesus”, the prerecorded interview was played on his afternoon drive-time show.

The interview was met with rebuke, criticism and scores of complaints. This led to Cliff and the station having to apologize to the offended listeners. He was also suspended for two days.

Cliff was later found by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) to be in contravention of the code protecting religious freedom, there was however no sanction imposed on him as the BCCSA found that the station had taken appropriate action against Cliff by suspending hi and he had also apologize.

In December 2009 following the death of former Health Minister and then acting Communications Minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang, Cliff posted  on Twitter, “Manto is dead. Good. A selfish and wicked bungler of the lowest order. Rotten attitude and rancid livers – all three of them.”

Cliff’s statement was met overwhelming criticism, his statement particular angered Julius Malema‘s ANC Youth League who called for his suspension from 5FM but the station could not censure Cliff as he had not made his comments on radio.

While Cliff was interviewing humanitarian Angela Larkan who was 22 years old at the time, he stated “girls of 22 usually do nothing but lie on their backs with their legs open”, this led to complaints to the BCCSA but Cliff was later cleared all charges.

Gareth CliffIn 2012 Gareth Cliff was caught driving 182km/h an hour in a 120km/h zone on the R21 in Lyttelton. The following day he talking on Talk Radio 702 he said, “I spent a couple of minutes behind bars, like a bad ass… but I was glad to be back home,” he had been returning from filming Idols in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.  Cliff added “You know how it is, you just want to get home because you’re exhausted, and before you know it there are blue [police] lights.”

Gareth Cliff appeared Pretoria Magistrate’s Court where he pleaded guilty to charges of contravening the Road Traffic Act and was sentenced to a fine of R10 000 or six months’ imprisonment.

In June 2012 Gareth Cliff addressing a woman who was never identified said “Dear bitch”, this was in an attempt to get her to call the station back. The woman in question took offence and lodged a complaint with the BCCSA. The woman’s complaint was dismissed by the BCCSA. I a ruling, the BCCSA said the word was used in a “playful and melodramatic manner.

In February 2013 the BCCSA dismissed another complaint, this time by Zaheer Ismail who lodged it after Cliff said “There is nothing good in Afghanistan, nor is there anyone with common sense. Westerners should leave the 13th century barbarians to blow themselves up,”the BCCSA found Cliff had not contravened the broadcasting code.

In January 2014 ahead of the May 7, 2014 General  Election, Gareth Cliff tweeted, “I am pleased that the Top 3 most powerful people in the DA are women. That deserves our applause, even if we won’t vote DA.” Cliff’s tweet was met with stern opposition particularly from the DA supporters.

  • Senzo Meyiwa’s Death and Funeral

Senzo Meyiwa was a South African footballer; a goalkeeper of Orlando Pirates who was very instrumental in their near perfect 2013 CAF Champions League campaign that culminated in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Al Ahly of Egypt in the final.

Senzo Meyiwa Casket Carried by SAPSHe (Senzo Meyiwa) appeared the South African Senior Men’s Team (Bafana Bafana) 3 times under coach Gordon Igesund; against Lesotho as a half-time substitute, against Swaziland and Australia. When coach Shakes Mashaba took over from Gordon Igesund, he installed Senzo Meyiwa as captain.

Under Shakes Mashaba, Senzo Meyiwa led the national team four times – all in the 2015 CAF African Cup of Nations Qualification and did not concede a goal; 3-0 victory against Sudan, 0-0 draw against Nigeria, 2-0 victory against Congo and 0-0 draw against Congo.

Weeks before he died, Senzo Meyiwa was installed by coach Vladimir Vermezović as captain of Orlando Pirates. He captained Orlando Pirates for the last time on Saturday night of October 25, 2014 in a 4-1 victory against Ajax Cape Town.

Senzo Meyiwa was shot and killed in Vosloorus on Sunday night of October 26, 2014 during a house robbery while visiting his girlfriend, South African Afro-pop singer Kelly Khumalo.

Gareth Cliff was among the notable public figures who either expressed shock or sadness in the wake of Senzo Meyiwa’s death. He (Gareth Cliff) was quoted saying “I really hope Senzo Meyiwa wasn’t killed for a cellphone. What a senseless waste of a talented human life.”

President declared that Senzo Meyiwa be given a KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) official funeral. The funeral took place at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Senzo Meyiwa was later buried at Heroes Acre Cemetery in Chesterville in Durban.

Gareth Cliff comments on Senzo Meyiwa funeralOn the day of the funeral Gareth Cliff took to Twitter to express his dissatisfaction; he wrote “who’s paying for this massive funeral for #SenzoMeyiwa?

A Twitter user whose handle is @VuyoYekani replied by saying “@garethcliff who pays for state/official funerals? Chill and celebrate BLACK success!”

At which point Gareth Cliff responded by saying “@VuyoYekani Well I never supported Pirates, and I’m sad he’s gone but Messi wouldn’t get this in Argentina, and Senzo was no Messi”

Gareth Cliff was heavily criticized by Twitter users for his utterances, he was also accused of racism and of being insensitive. Other Twitter user supported him in his stance.

His manager Rina Broomberg was quoted by the Daily Sun “This is truly a reflection of the country. He simply asked the questions many people were wondering about. People get very emotional”.

While Gareth Cliff later wrote on his blog: “So if the politicians paid for it, that means WE paid for it. I don’t mind if we paid for Senzo’s funeral, but I mind that I am the bad guy for asking the question. I mind it a lot. I was called every kind of vulgar thing by a horde of the least eloquent, most furious, marauding lunatics I didn’t know, and who couldn’t have all known Senzo either”.



Departure from Idols SA

Gareth Cliff was fired from Idols SA on January 8, 2016 following his January 4th, 2016 Twitter post which cried freedom of speech in support of Penny Sparrow who had embarked on a scathing attack of black South African calling the monkeys and blaming them for dirty beaches in the city of Durban. On the January 5th, 2016 Gareth Cliff apologize but this was not enough to sway M-Net to spare his job.

We do not believe that Gareth is a racist but his response showed a lack of empathy for our history and it is important to differentiate between freedom of speech and hate speech. Penny Sparrow’s comments were hateful. Hate speech is not applicable with regard to freedom of speech,” M-Net said in part in a statement.


Social Media

Gareth Cliff is among the most, if not the most followed South Africa based celebrity, and undoubtedly among the most followed South Africans anywhere in the world.

As of July 14, 2014, the most obvious ahead of Cliff on twitter are comedian Trevor Noah (1.37 million) and Victoria’s Secret model Candice Swanepoel (796k). Cliff just edges out Bonang Matheba‘s 681k by his 682k while DJ Fresh and Minnie Dlamini are yet to reach 600k.