Cape Town - Heart FM has fired radio veteran Clarence Ford, one of their longest-serving employees.
Ford had been with the station for 24 years. He said he was enroute to Heart's studios in Green Point for his regular 12-3pm lunchtime show on Monday, when he got a phone call from programme manager Vernon Nel informing him of his dismissal.
The phone call came just 40 minutes before his show was scheduled to begin.
"I got a phone call to say there is a letter that I must read," said Ford. "And the letter says my services are not required any longer."
Ford immediately phoned the station manager Renee Redelinghuys for clarity. "I called her just to make sure I understood the content.“
He said Redelinghuys told him his contract was terminated with immediate effect.
Ford's dismissal stems directly from his revelations in a Weekend Argus Sunday exclusive that bullying by a senior manager resulted in his decision to leave the station. His departure from the station was only meant to happen at the end of February next year.
"I've had some run-ins with management. And there was a particularly bad one in February where I had to draw the line," explained Ford.
"I cannot be in a space where my values are compromised. The February experience related to an attempt to bully on a public platform. And I was on the receiving end of that attempt. And I don't take to bullies very kindly.
“And I met the bully halfway in a language only bullies understand. And I expected the response would be, let's just call it an emotionally intelligent response. And that is exactly what has brought us to this particular time."
Ford added: "I demanded that they (management) rein in the bully and they refused to, or didn't feel it necessary. I said I can't respect this kind of behaviour. And if they're going to remain silent, they would be complicit, and I couldn't stay. And I made it clear given that scenario."
The incident Ford refers to is with Denver Apollus, the head of radio innovation and the second most senior manager at Heart FM. Apollus reports to Redelinghuys, the managing director.
Responding to Ford's allegations of bullying, Apollus said "Clarence is definitely talking about me", but insisted there was "absolutely no truth" to the claims.
"It's definitely not the reason for Clarence’s departure. I don't even engage much with Clarence. I don't know where the bullying comes from. He doesn't even engage with management much."
Vernon Nel, the programme manager, is Ford's line manager. And Ford said contract talks with Nel last month were "a bit of a surprise".
"I got a WhatsApp message asking me to come to the boardroom. That was on the 8th of November. And that there would be a discussion about my contract."
Ford explained that previous contract meetings never took more than five minutes and were often concluded in the office hallway.
"This was quite ominous, because this was a discussion in the boardroom," he said.
"I thought it related directly to the impasse in February. And I knew instinctively what was going to play out. And it did. I have communicated all the issues to the board and to management, in detail. And I think that is where the issues must reside."
The Weekend Argus story broke on Sunday morning. Ford went into work as usual for his 6pm show. Little did he know it would be his last.
"I obviously wanted a chance to say goodbye and I was deluded to think I'd be given the chance. It's been a long ride and you obviously want to say thank you. There's been a lot of love and it's been a great journey. I don't get to say thank you," said a sobbing Ford. "It is sore."
"I'm at peace. But I always wanted to say goodbye. I knew it was going to happen (that my time at Heart FM would end), I just thought it was going to happen at the end of February. And it's come earlier and I don't get a chance to say goodbye.“
So Weekend Argus gave Ford the chance to say his farewells.
He said: "Whatever you were hoping to say to your listeners and everyone involved with your journey, do it now." A very emotional Ford responded: "It was a really special thing and we made lots of memories. And I think we were in the musical moments often and we had great parties and enjoyed friendships and enjoyed laughter with the music. And it is no more on Heart."
Ford is a walking bank of memories, and he has shared plenty of them with Weekend Argus.
"Just on Thursday I spoke to (listeners) Maureen and Rafael and they told me their son Caleb had just graduated from college. He is around 21-years-old. And when he was born, mom and dad shared a very precious moment with me, and I welcomed him into life as the youngest listener of P4 radio at the time. And now he's a graduate.
“That does speak about the time I've done at Heart. Of course it is sad because there's a lot of great memories, all of which I cherish. And these are the kinds of things I hold onto for a lifetime."
Clarence Ford leaves huge shoes to fill. He enjoyed legendary status at Heart FM. The man who delivered the Friday lang arm segments, the off-key sing along sessions to the golden oldies, the man whose sultry voice made everything okay, will focus on his entrepreneurial projects from now on.