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article imageHunt is on for fake sign language interpreter at Mandela memorial

By Anne Sewell     Dec 11, 2013 in World
Pretoria - As the world watched the mass memorial service for the late Nelson Mandela, former South African President, a man stood there, gesticulating "sign language" for hours, but his movements meant nothing.
Before an audience of millions, including deaf people all over the world, the fake sign language interpreter took to the stage and, well, moved his hands around.
According to DeafSA, the leading deaf association in South Africa, the unknown man was gesticulating sheer and absolute nonsense that meant absolutely nothing to any deaf person trying to appreciate the memorial service.
Representatives from DeafSA condemned the presence of the unknown man, especially at an event that was hosting President Jacob Zuma and many world leaders, including US President Barack Obama.
All during the ceremony, when dignitaries were addressing the huge crowd in the Soccer City Stadium, the man, with an official security pass hanging around his neck, just motioned and made hand signals that experts say meant absolutely nothing.
While apparently some deaf people in South Africa might vary their signing a little, this guy knew absolutely none of the hand signals used by the deaf worldwide.
Delphin Hlungwane, an official sign language interpreter with DeafSA, told Reuters:
"He was basically gesturing. He didn't follow any of the grammatical rules and structure of the language. He just invented his signs as he went along,"
"There was zero percent accuracy. He couldn't even get the basics right. He couldn't even say 'thank you.'"
"It was horrible, an absolute circus, really really bad," Nicole Du Toit, an official sign language interpreter, told the AP. "Only he can understand those gestures."
This incident also raises questions about the security of the man being so close to world leaders on stage, especially at an event that also saw current South African President Jacob Zuma jeered and booed by the crowd. Current scandals in the country surround the president, with elections coming up in less than six months' time.
On that note, Hlungwane said that the interpreter completely failed to get the hostile reception to Zuma over to the television viewers. She said that you are supposed to use facial expressions, even if not an exact sign, to indicate what happened.
This guy just kept his face deadpan and carried on moving his hands around.
According to the Action on Hearing Loss group in the UK, as a result of this faker's actions, "deaf or hard of hearing people across the world were completely excluded from one of the biggest events in recent history."
Now that it is known that the mystery mimer is completely unknown to the deaf community in South Africa, a manhunt has begun.
Presidency Minister Collins Chabane told a news conference:
"Government is looking in to this matter but has not been able to conclude this inquiry due to the demanding schedule of organizing events,"
Mac Maharaj, spokesman for Zuma said he is checking into the scandal, and the SABC state television broadcaster says it was not involved, as they had their own (real) on-screen signers.
Interesting to note is that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) denies any knowledge of the fake signer, but apparently in several television clips from a meeting a year ago, the same man can be seen on stage, right next to Zuma, gesticulating away.
Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein (L) speaks alongside a man passing himself off as a sig...
Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein (L) speaks alongside a man passing himself off as a sign language interpreter (R) during a national memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the Stadium in Johannesburg, December 10, 2013
With special permission by Reuters / SABC
A fake sign language interpreter at the Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa
A fake sign language interpreter at the Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa
Video screengrab
U.S. President Barack Obama gives a speech as a man passing himself off as a sign language interpret...
U.S. President Barack Obama gives a speech as a man passing himself off as a sign language interpreter (R) folds his hands during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the stadium in Johannesburg, December 10, 2013.
With special permission by Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach
India s President Pranab Mukherjee speaks at the podium as a sign language interpreter (R) punches t...
India's President Pranab Mukherjee speaks at the podium as a sign language interpreter (R) punches the air beside him during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the stadium in Johannesburg, December 10, 2013
With special permission by Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach
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