/ 26 October 2010

Shock jock meets the spin doctor

5FM shock jock Gareth Cliff’s meeting with the president’s spin doctor Zizi Kodwa on Monday afternoon was a bit of an anticlimax. After a massive response to Cliff’s open letter listing six problem areas the state should be addressing, online voyeurs were perhaps hoping for an epic battle of words.

But it was not to be. Speaking after the meeting, Cliff said his lunch with Kodwa had been “convivial and friendly” and that they “didn’t really discuss the content of my email”. Instead the two discussed the government, Kodwa’s recent trip to Egypt, and “his allergy to some kind of tree that grows in Cape Town”.

It was by no means an official meeting. “It was more of a personal capacity meeting, to reassure me that communication channels are open,” said Cliff.

However, Kodwa did express concern about the tone of Cliff’s letter, which referred to government ministers as “the good, the bad and the ugly”.

In the letter, which he published on his website, Cliff referenced Zuma family members who become “overnight millionaires” and spoke of “presidential bastard children” and “a lack of leadership that allowed the Unions to make the elected government its bitch”.

The DJ and Pop Idol judge said his intention was not to offend, but to raise issues that his listeners had raised.

“I didn’t appoint myself to talk on behalf of the opposition but rather to raise issues my listeners and followers [on the internet] have raised,” he said.

“I’m not a politician or spokesperson for any organisation. I’m just like any other blogger or radio DJ, and someone who has a deep desire for what is best for the country.”

“I completely understand his [Kodwa’s] point of view, which is we don’t need to engage in mudslinging,” he added.

According to Cliff, Kodwa said he did not feel the letter needed a point-by-point response, though he felt that the channels for debate should remain open.

“It was a very pleasant lunch but at the same time this will not be the first or the last of these discussions,” said Cliff, adding that he hoped to have people from the president’s office on the line for some of his radio shows.

While there was much backslapping and congratulations from readers on Cliff’s website on Tuesday, this tepid conclusion to what started off as a fiery challenge to government did not impress everyone.

Nozipho Madlala didn’t hold back when she commented: “Oh whatever Gareth. You seem to have changed your tune and tone since the letter. It appears that yal were just massaging each other’s egoes … I can assure you that the issues you raised will not be addressed.”

“It’s as I expected, Zizi diplomatically winning back the face that they had lost,” said Lenny Appadoo. “Nothing’s changed except that they now have you, a potential influencer of attitudes towards government, feeling a little less indignant. Not a very good outcome.”

Pearl-Ann Liebenberg simply stated “My word, what a let down.”

Perhaps reader Marion Basset put it best when she stated “[I’m] afraid this is just another storm in a teacup.”