I Saw Angels At Mandela Memorial Service, Fake Interpreter Claims


fake-interpreterThe South African fake sign language interpreter accused of making up his own signs during the memorial event held in honour of Nelson Mandela said that he may have suffered a schizophrenic episode on stage, after claiming he saw “angels” at the event.

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Thamsanqa Jantjie, 34, who reportedly suffers from schizophrenia and has exhibited violent behaviour in the past, said that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic, because there were “armed policemen around me”.

He said that he was once hospitalised in a mental health facility for more than one year.

Jantjie, who stood gesticulating near President Obama and others who spoke at Tuesday’s ceremony that was broadcast round the world, insisted that he was doing proper sign language interpretation of the speeches of world leaders. He said he worked for a company called SA Interpreters, which had been hired by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for Tuesday’s ceremony at Johannesburg’s 95,000-seat Soccer City stadium. He said he was paid $85 for interpreting at the event.

But he also apologised for his performance that has been dismissed by many sign-language experts as gibberish.

“I would like to tell everybody that if I’ve offended anyone, please, forgive me,” Jantjie said in his concrete home in a low-income Johannesburg neighbourhood.

“But what I was doing, I was doing what I believe is my calling, I was doing what I believe makes a difference.

“What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium … I start realising that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how it comes. Sometimes, I react violent on that place. Sometimes, I will see things that chase me,” Jantjie said.

“I was in a very difficult position,” he added. “And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I’ll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner, so that I mustn’t embarrass my country.”

Jantjie said he was due on the day of the ceremony to get a regular six-month mental health check-up to determine whether the medication he takes was working, whether it needed to be changed or whether he needed to be kept at a mental health facility for treatment. He said he did not tell the company that contracted him for the event that he was due for the check-up, but said the owner of SA Interpreters in Johannesburg was aware of his condition.

Jantjie said he received one year of sign language interpretation at a school in Cape Town and insisted that he has previously interpreted at many events without anyone complaining.

The AP showed Jantjie video footage of him interpreting on stage at the Mandela memorial service. “I don’t remember any of this at all,” he said.

A South African deputy cabinet minister admitted that “a mistake happened” in hiring Jantjie. Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said that government officials have tried to track down the company that provided Jantjie, but that the owners “have vanished into thin air”.

Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Bogopane-Zulu apologised to deaf people offended around the world by what they say was Jantjie’s incomprehensible signing. She said an investigation was underway to determine how Jantjie had received security clearance.

South Africa’s leading deaf association had claimed on Thursday that he was a fake and said he was inventing signs. However, in a radio interview Jantjie said he was happy with his performance at the memorial of the anti-apartheid hero, who died a week ago aged 95. He told South Africa’s Talk Radio 702, “Absolutely, absolutely. I think that I’ve been a champion of sign language.”

According to The Sun, Twitter users with sign language knowledge claimed the interpreter repeatedly used signs for “donkey”, “lightning bolt” and “prawns”.

Meanwhile, the Eyewitness News has reported that trained sign language trainers said he also made reference to “rocking horses”.

Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African and board member of the World Deaf Federation said he believed the interpreter was making up signs as he went along.

The government, which was in charge of the mass memorial, has said it did not know who he was. The ANC also denied knowing about him, although footage from two large ANC events last year showed him signing on stage next to President Jacob Zuma. The controversy has come during South Africa’s 10-day farewell to Mandela, whose remains lay in state for a second day on Thursday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he was sworn in as the nation’s first black president in 1994.

The death of Nobel Peace Laureate Mandela triggered an outpouring of grief and emotion, as well as celebration and thanksgiving among his 53,000,000 countrymen and millions more around the world.

His body will lie in state for a third day tomorrow before being flown to the Eastern Cape, where he will be buried on Sunday at his ancestral home in Qunu, 450 miles south of Johannesburg.

Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsolahttps://naija247news.com
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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