Nelson Mandela sign language 'faker' blames schizophrenia

As world leaders spoke at Mandela's memorial, experts say 'fake' interpreter was making up signs as he went along

LAST UPDATED AT 09:32 ON Thu 12 Dec 2013

THE sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial service accused of being a fake has blamed schizophrenia for his muddled signing.

Thami Jantjie signed a portion of the ceremony including Barack Obama's speech. But members of the deaf community accused him of making it up as he went along.

In an interview with Cape Times, Jantjie revealed that he is currently receiving treatment for schizophrenia and suggested that the magnitude of what he was doing at the service or the happiness he felt throughout the day might have triggered an attack while on stage.

He claims he lost concentration and began hearing voices and hallucinating. "There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation," he said. "I tried to control myself. I am very sorry, it's the situation I found myself in. Life is unfair, this illness is unfair. Anyone who does not understand this illness will think that I'm just making this up."

Following the memorial service on Tuesday, Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African and board member of the World Deaf Federation, told the sign language interpreter used at Nelson Mandela's memorial service yesterday was making it up as he went along, experts have claimed.

The man, who is yet to be named, signed a portion of the ceremony including US President Barack Obama's speech.

But Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African and board member of the World Deaf Federation, told the SBS news website that the structure of the man’s hand, facial and body movements did not follow what the speakers were saying.

Jordaan claimed the man was simply making up his own signs. “What happened at the memorial service is a truly disgraceful thing to see – it should not happen at all,” he said. “What happened today will be forever aligned with Nelson Mandela and the deaf community, thanks to this fake interpreter.”

Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman to be elected to the South African Parliament, tweeted during the ceremony: “ANC-linked interpreter on the stage with deputy president of ANC is signing rubbish. He cannot sign. Please get him off.”

South African sign language interpreter Francois Deysel accused the man of “making a mockery of our profession”.

South Africa's deaf community has previously raised concerns about the young black male interpreter, who has been used at a number of ANC events, says the Evening Standard.

Sheena Walters, a representative from the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters, also said the signs were not recognisable as any accepted form of international or South African sign language.

“It seems quite obvious that the interpreter isn’t using South African sign language", she told SBS. “Most sign languages across the world share a similar structure and pattern and this person seems to be making a lot of repetitive signs and isn’t displaying the usual facial expression or structure of sign language that you would normally see.” · 

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"Government spokesperson Phumla Williams said she was unable to respond
to the allegations immediately, as she did not know which department
hired the man. She said she did not know about his qualifications or

.. and this guy got to stand next to the most powerful man on earth for over 15 minutes.

Makes Guptagate look like a minor security breach!

For the longest time, there was confusion as to the identity of this man as the agencies organizing the event were pointing fingers at each other as whose responsibility it was to hire him in the first place. Amazing security breach here. Terrorists dream of such a situation that they could have taken out numerous world leaders with one explosion. I find it amazing that this man was left on the stage for four hours doing the Curly Shuffle (a three stooges routine) that no one understood and that no one in security had been alerted to that he didnt know what he was doing. There was an incident when Clinton was president in 2009 and a Polish interpreter was not all that well versed in the Polish language. He was removed rather quickly.

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