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article imageMandela memorial 'fake' interpreter: Forgive me,'I saw angels'

By Yukio Strachan     Dec 12, 2013 in World
Johannesburg - There's a reason the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's high-profile memorial service made "childish hand gestures" and clapped "as if he had never learned a word of sign language in his life" — he saw "angels come to the stadium.”
That's what the man, Thamsanqa Jantjie, told The Associated Press Thursday in an interview, saying: “What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium.”
Jantjie is speaking of the historic memorial service held Dec. 10 for Mandela, the anti-apartheid hero and first South African Black president who died on Dec. 5 at the age of 95. It was a service attended by 91 heads of state and government including Barack Obama and David Cameron at FNB Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg's township. Jantjie stood one yard (meter) away from Obama and other heads of as they gave speeches honoring the man who many say brought reconciliation to the country.
And this is where the problem started, according to Jantjie.
“I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it come. Sometimes I get violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things chasing me.”
Sign language induced Schizophrenia?
In an interview with South Africa's Talk Radio 702, Jantjie explained that his hallucinations and visions were due to his struggle with schizophrenia.
“I was in a very difficult position,” Jantjie continued. “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.”
So it all went downhill and he just signed things that didn’t make sense, Independent Online reported.
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 suffered schizophrenic episode while on stage, he told the media outlet.
"I would like to tell everybody that if I've offended anyone, please, forgive me," Jantjie said. "But what I was doing, I was doing what I believe is my calling, I was doing what I believe makes a difference."
Outrage
Jantjie's claims follow allegations that have led to him being called an impostor by sign language experts around the world.
David Buxton, the CEO of the British Deaf Association,told the Telegraph the man, who was supposed to be signing in South African, was "waving his hands around but there was no meaning."
Buxton said it was "childish hand gestures and clapping, it was as if he had never learned a word of sign language in his life."
He said sign languages across the world share a similar structure and pattern, but his were just repetitive hand movements.
"It was hours of complete nonsense. He is clearly a fraud who wanted to stand on stage with big and important people. It's quite audacious if you think about it."
South African Government used interpreter before
Jantjie's statements raise serious questions for South African Government officials who've hired him on at least two previous occasions (Watch video below). He said he has previously interpreted at many events without anyone complaining.
Jantjie said he is sad because he believes the issue could have been dealt with early if DeafSA had picked up his way of interpreting.
"Remember, you are talking about an interpreter who has been interpreting through these years. If I was wrong why should it become an issue now?” he asked.
But the Deaf Federation of SA (DeafSA) yesterday told City Press they had officially complained to the ruling party as far back as a year and a half ago about Jantjie's interpreting at African National Congress (ANC) events.
Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the vice-chairperson of the Deaf Federation of SA (DeafSA), confirmed to City Press that the DeafSA had submitted a report about the fake interpreter to the party.
DeafSA has to date received no response from the party.
“When a deaf person complains, nobody listens,” said Newhoudt-Druchen.
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
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
More about Sign language induced Schizophrenia, Thamsanqa Jantjie, sign language interpreter, Nelson mandela, nelson mandela memorial
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