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Gareth Cliff’s (peri-peri) wings clipped

Fast food giant Nando’s has pulled its sponsorship of Gareth Cliff’s podcast, after years of Cliff falling foul of the line between freedom of speech and just plain being an ass. Cliff – well known for controversial statements – outdid himself last Thursday by shouting down a black woman’s experience of racism. The fracas occurred on Cliff’s podcast, The Burning Platform; he was in conversation with DA leader John Steenhuisen and One South Africa member Mudzuli Rakhivhane about the upcoming elections, independent candidates and racial issues in SA.

The ‘ish hit the fan when the controversial Phoenix DA posters came up. Rakhivhane said the posters were deeply racist and spoke to her experiences of structural racism. Cliff promptly dismissed these experiences as “anecdotal” and “unimportant to all of us”. He and Steenhuisen insisted that service delivery, not race, was all that matters in an election. 🤦🏽‍♀️ 

It’s startling that a whole opposition party leader doesn’t realise how much race matters to voters, whether he agrees with them or not. It doesn’t just show up his and Cliff’s lack of empathy, it questions their competence as public figures if they can’t grasp something so basic about the citizens they’re speaking to. 

Video footage showing Steenhuisen smirking as he yelled “service delivery” over Rakhivhane’s attempts to speak was particularly troubling. 😖

Nando’s put out a rather mild (haha) statement hours later, saying it takes the right to freedom of speech very seriously and would be reviewing the content. It later pulled its sponsorship of the show, citing the fact that Cliff spoke over Rakhivhane and shut her down as its reason. We were expecting more… well, peri-peri…in its response, but it was the right thing to do. Freedom of speech IS important – and so is recognising SA’s painful past and how it continues to play out in very real ways for black South Africans. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 28 October 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.

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