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South African ‘Idols’ TV judge wins racism court case
A white judge on the South African version of the globally-successful TV talent show “Idols” won a court case Friday to be reinstated after he was sacked in a dispute over alleged racism.
Gareth Cliff, an outspoken radio host, was thrown off the show when he sent a tweet saying “people really don’t understand free speech” amid an Internet furore over a woman who compared black people to monkeys.
South Africa has been roiled by a series of bitter racial arguments on social media that have exposed deep divisions more than two decades after the end of white-minority apartheid rule.
Anger peaked earlier this month when Penny Sparrow, a white realtor, complained on Facebook about black people littering beaches and said she would “address the blacks of South Africa as monkeys”.
The Johannesburg court ruled against “Idols” television broadcaster M-Net after Cliff argued that his employment contract had been unfairly broken.
“We are very pleased about this, we are thrilled,” Cliff said as he emerged from the courtroom.
“We’ve always been confident about the case,” his lawyer Eric Mabuza added. “This case indicates that everyone is equal before the law… We do not have black human rights, or white human rights.”
M-Net was not immediately available for comment.
Before the case, it said that “whether intended or not, the tweet was widely perceived to be in defence of Sparrow’s right to make racist and derogatory statements”.
“Cliff demonstrated a clear lack of empathy for the history of South Africa and M-Net did not wish to participate in fuelling further racially-based divisions.”
The “Idols” franchise started as “Pop Idol” in Britain in 2001 and has spread around the world under various names.
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