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AbledNews post banner has the headline: Mandela Memorial: Fake Interpreter Sparks Outrage and Shame In Deaf Community. The man - identified as Thami Jantjie, a member of Nelson Mandela's political party, the African National Congress, is seen in a TV screengrab from the service and in a photo that appears on his facebook page.

Imposter Makes A Mockery Of Sign Language And Security Arrangements 

 

UPDATE: Dec.19/2013:  South African media are reporting that Thamsanqa Jantjie’s wife, Siziwe, took her husband to a hospital in for a check-up earlier this week,  where it was suggested he be admitted immediately.

 

She said, “The past few days have been hard. We have been supportive because he might have had a breakdown.” 

 

Jantjie was reportedly supposed to have gone to Sterkfontein on December 10 for a check-up. However, following the offer to interpret at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela held at FNB Stadium in Soweto on the same day, Jantjie contacted the hospital to reschedule the appointment.

 

Other media have reported that Jantjie had been previously institutionalized for just over a year when he was found not fit to stand trial for being part of a mob that “necklaced” , or set fire to a tire placed around the neck of each of two men found with a stolen television in 2003. “Necklacing” had been common during the period of the violent opposition to the South African government’s Apartheid laws.

 

A mystery man seen by millions of TV viewers around the world supposedly performing sign language for deaf viewers has been identified as a member of the African National Congress political party. It became immediately apparent to any deaf or hearing viewers who know any of the various forms of sign language that the man, identified as Thamsanqa ‘Thami’ Jantjie, was gesturing gibberish.

 

 

The exposure of this fake has become a major embarrassment for the government of South Africa, especially in the area of security. Jantjie was wearing an official security pass to the memorial at Johannesburg’s FNB / Soccer City Stadium which has a capacity of 95,000 seats. Hard questions are being asked about why he wasn’t vetted properly and allowed to stand next to some of the 91 heads of state, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who were in attendance.

 

 

One of the first to notice something was wrong and post about it on Twitter was Bruno Peter Druchen, National Director of Deaf Federation of South Africa – DeafSA. Francois Deysel, a South African Sign Language trainer from Cape Town also joined the chorus, as did Wilma Nehoudt, deaf Member of the South African Parliament, Vice-President of the World Federation of the Deaf and National Vice Chairperson DeafSA.

 

Photo shows Tweets about the fake interpreter. The first by Bruno Peter Druchen reads: Please get rid of this CLOWN interpreter, please! to which Francois Deysel responds: Please can someone ask the interpreter to step down from the stage, it is embarrassing and making a mockery of our profession. Wilma Newhoudt tweets: ANC linked interpreter on the stage with dep president of ANC is signing rubbish, He cannot sign. Please get him off.

 

It became even more apparent the man was a fake when he was seen onscreen at the same time as an insert of a ‘real’ translator was shown.

 

 

Fake Interpreter / Fake Excuse?

 

However, in an interview with South Africa’s The Star newspaper and published on their iol news website, Jantjie claims he suffered a schizophrenic episode. He claims he doesn’t know whether it was the magnitude of what he was doing or the happiness he felt throughout the day that might have triggered the attack while on stage.

 

Suddenly, he says, he lost concentration, and started hearing voices and hallucinating. “There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation. I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry, it’s the situation I found myself in.”

 

Read the full interview at iol news.

 

Calls to the translation service he works for were not returned, and comment threads at various online publications were filling up with angry reactions and links to older videos showing Jantjie signing nonsense on other occasions, with commenters rebuking him for now slandering persons with mental illness as well as those who are deaf or hearing impaired.

 

Johan Blaauw, Chairman of the SA Translator’s Institute told iol News that the same man was used to interpret the proceedings at the ANC elective conference in Mangaung last year and there were complaints made against him then.

 

“The ANC did not do anything,” said Blaauw. “I’m afraid this thing has left the whole of South Africa with egg on its face.”

 

The South African government is investigating.

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