Now, in a move as abrupt as some of his remarks, Cliff announced his departure from 5FM, leaving his audience speechless one last time. Following the announcement, Twitter was buzzing with fans expressing their shock and disappointment. Some even questioned whether it was a bad April Fools’ Day joke.
They were one day early and Cliff wasn’t bluffing.
“Professor Jonathan Jansen once told me that if you do the same thing for more than seven years, you lack imagination,” he explains. “I liked that. We’ve done the morning show for seven years and it’s better to quit while you’re at the top, than when people start saying they’re tired of you.”
Though the news seemed to have come out of nowhere, Cliff admits it was a long time coming: the result of months of analysis and forward-thinking.
“I’ve been thinking about the future of radio for a long time,” he says. “My business partner, Rina Broomberg, is a compulsive strategic planner and being ahead of the curve is always part of our plans. The decision to leave was about timing, new prospects and being pioneering. Somehow I wasn’t fired by the SABC over the years, but with the elections coming up and all the rules around it at the SABC, best not to push my luck.”
How a person of Cliff’s stature managed to keep the whole thing under wraps is still baffling.
“Perhaps no one believed the rumours,” he laughs, “so it didn’t spread. And there must have been rumours, as I received a couple of offers from other radio stations in the weeks leading up to my contract expiring with 5FM.”
Why the station didn’t say anything is another mystery.
“Gareth and 5FM decided not to draw out the process of good-byes,” says 5FM spokesperson Kim Sears.
So what is next on the cards for the controversial radio DJ? After a week of craftily brushing off the media’s questions by promising a new and better venture, Cliff posted a message on his Facebook page yesterday, suggesting he was starting his own radio station.
The post directs fans to cliffcentral.com, where a tagline reads “Unscripted. Uncensored. Unradio” and prompts visitors to join him on May 1. Users are also encouraged to sign up for updates on the station’s development.
Though not providing any clarity on the project, suggestions indicate it may be an Internet radio station, possibly an agreement with WeChat streaming.
Despite the 5FM brand playing a significant role in elevating his status, Cliff has become a trade name of his own.
It’s most likely fans will continue to support the presenter. A post on Twitter suggests a significant amount of people have already signed up.
Looking back on his time at 5FM, Cliff says: “Every day was special. Interaction with the listeners were my favourite part of the show. Listeners share intimate details of their lives – break-ups, birth of babies, embarrassing moments – you name it.”
When asked what he’ll miss most, he jokes: “I’ll miss management, and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission,” before snidely adding a “Yeah right!”
But it’s not all that grim.
“There is no bad blood,” Cliff says. “It was a great chapter in my life, but it’s over now.”