SA’s fresh voices: Gareth Cliff – entrepreneur, iconoclast, thinker explains why SA a good place to be right now

As the country enters its new political era, Gareth Cliff’s authentic voice is deservedly attracting deserved recognition. A straight-talking media version of rabidly independent financial advisor Magnus Heystek, Cliff’s decade-old self-built canoe is steaming ahead, supporting the thesis that independent thought trumps commercially driven narratives. In this riveting interview, Cliff draws on his experiences and worldview to explain why SA is a pretty good place to be right now. He spoke to BizNews editor Alec Hogg.

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Highlights from the interview

Alec Hogg interviews Gareth Cliff, exploring Gareth’s impact in South Africa and his entrepreneurial journey, beginning with the internet venture Get a Life. They reminisce about early ventures and the late John Kuhn. Gareth Cliff discusses his evolution from entrepreneurship to influencing public opinion, highlighting his extensive experience in media and his love for learning. He shares insights from interactions with intellectuals like Douglas Murray and Eric Weinstein, emphasizing the importance of curiosity and continuous learning.

The conversation shifts to the current political landscape in South Africa. Cliff comments on the new government of national unity, expressing cautious optimism. He critiques politicians generally as often unfit for real-world jobs and views this unity as a promising solution to past governmental shortcomings. He mentions the influence of various political factions and the potential for progress through collaboration.

Gareth Cliff also discusses the role of mainstream media and the challenges of staying credible in a landscape often dominated by legacy media outlets. He appreciates the opportunity to provide an alternative, truthful perspective to his audience.

The interview concludes with reflections on global politics and South Africa’s strategic position. Cliff remains optimistic about South Africa’s future, believing that with collective effort and a focus on growth, the country can become a prosperous place. Alec acknowledges Cliff’s role in speaking truth to power and contributing positively to the nation’s discourse.

Edited transcript of the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Alec Hogg (00:08.814)
South Africa’s in a new era with many new voices. A not-so-new voice making an impact is Gareth Cliff, who’s been around for a quarter of a century. We’ll hear from Gareth about his inspiration and thoughts on the new era.

Alec Hogg (00:29.87)
Pity they didn’t call it Vildebeer. “New” is very Eurocentric. Gareth, it’s great talking to you again. I’ve followed your entrepreneurial career with fascination. People know a lot about you, but they might not remember that you were one of the internet pioneers with Get a Life.

Gareth Cliff (00:47.691)
Yes, of course. Yep.

Alec Hogg (00:59.406)
via gel .co .za

Gareth Cliff (01:01.995)
Only you would remember that. We pitched to you, and you got it when we started, way before Facebook and MySpace. We started a student portal, giving people functionality similar to Facebook, seven or eight years ahead. The dot-com crash hit, and no one touched our work, but we did something revolutionary with John Kuhn, Alan Ford, Nikki, and Zonda. It was exciting, even if it didn’t bring wealth or fame.

Alec Hogg (02:10.125)
It was fantastic. I remember being excited about partnering with you guys at MoneyWeb. You were so young, but you had vision. Unfortunately, I was outvoted. You’ve gone from entrepreneurship to influencing people. I want to understand where your ideas come from.

Gareth Cliff (03:10.475)
A quarter of a century sounds terrifying. Much of what you said about me applies to you too. I remember when you started MoneyWeb and when I took over your show on 702. I hope people know where I get my ideas. Since starting Cliff Central in 2014, I’ve done about 14,000 hours of interviews and shows, probably over 20,000 hours including commercial radio. I read a lot and am curious about the world. Curiosity is the mark of someone interesting and intelligent. There’s always more to learn. I found a historical precedent for what we’re experiencing in South Africa now.

Alec Hogg (05:38.344)
Nothing new under the sun, as Victor Hugo said. What do you read? Do you watch podcasts or videos?

Gareth Cliff (05:53.003)
I enjoy my job, so I listen to a wide variety of content: current affairs, philosophical interviews. This year, I met two of my heroes, Douglas Murray and Eric Weinstein. Talking to such brilliant minds is like having a university just for myself. I read an enormous amount, especially history. There’s always so much to share.

Alec Hogg (08:52.805)
Douglas Murray’s book “The Death of Europe” opened my eyes. Aren’t we seeing his predictions in France, Germany, Austria, and Hungary?

Gareth Cliff (09:25.604)
Yes. We’re seeing the direct results of his concerns. It’s frustrating how long it takes to move the needle in society. People often dismiss thinkers like Murray without understanding their arguments.

Alec Hogg (09:51.411)
Indeed.

Gareth Cliff (09:56.267)
It’s similar to what happens in South Africa. There are destructive voices online obsessed with race and ownership. I avoid that spiral. I’ll put out my work and influence where I can. I’m not aiming for a political role, but I’m pleased my business is working and that people trust me to bring clarity.

Alec Hogg (12:14.466)
Mainstream media. With your reach, who is the mainstream media nowadays?

Gareth Cliff (12:26.251)
Legacy media outlets undermine our audience, calling it small and ideologically bent. But our audience chooses us. We’re not funded by corporatism or political interests. If we’re not truthful, we’ll be found out quickly.

Alec Hogg (14:18.21)
Indeed we shall. What do you think about the new government of national unity and its members?

Gareth Cliff (14:46.923)
With all disrespect, most politicians are basic people. Some are genuinely in service, but they’re rare. Most are rent seekers and parasites. This isn’t just in South Africa. Performative politics is global. This government of national unity is the best possible outcome. Everyone has someone in the cabinet they can relate to. The ANC can’t do things alone anymore, which is good. Less government interference means better daily lives for South Africans.

Alec Hogg (20:09.865)
Competition is good in politics too. In 2014, I remember being proud of your first Cliff Central broadcast. Warren Buffett mentioned in one of his meetings that Washington has 30,000 lobbyists influencing politicians. How does that apply in South Africa? Who pulls the strings here?

Gareth Cliff (21:12.107)
The EFF would say the markets. They see them as controlled by a small group, but markets are the most complex, collaborative system ever. Funding in politics is complex too. Ordinary South Africans have given this government a poison chalice, wanting to work together. This election shows South Africans want to come together for a better future. We’re well-positioned globally. If our economy took off, we’d be in paradise. I’m happy to be doing business here.

Alec Hogg (24:43.482)
And to be speaking truth to power. As always, Gareth Cliff, privileged talking with you. I’m Alec Hogg from BizNews .com.

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