I am schizophrenic, claims `fake` Nelson Mandela memorial interpreter

The sign-language interpreter at the significant Nelson Mandela memorial ceremony was a fraud man who was just making childish gestures with his arms and hands, which made no sense at all, reports quoted deaf activists as saying.

By Supriya Jha | Updated: Dec 12, 2013, 18:56 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Cape Town: The `fake` sign-language interpreter at the significant Nelson Mandela memorial ceremony, who was widely slammed for hurting the deaf community, on Thursday blamed his gibberish act on the mental illness schizophrenia, reports said.

The man, now identified as Thamasanqa Jantjie said that he was suferring from schizophrenia and he had an attack on the memorial day which made him sign things that did not make any sense.

In an interview with the Johannesburg daily, The Star, Jantjie said that on the memorial day, he was hearing voices in the head and hallucinating, and hence could not control the "dangerous" situation he was in.

“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.”

“Life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn’t understand this illness will think that I’m just making this up,” he said.

Speaking to a South African radio station, Talk Radio 702, he defended self saying that he was a "champion" of sign language and worked as a senior interpreter for the company SA interpreters.

“I have been a champion of sign language. I’ve interpreted in many big events… If I was interpreting wrong, why has it not been picked up before? Why is it an issue now?,” he said.

"I`ve interpreted in many press conferences, including the presidential conference," he said. "There was no one at all that said I interpreted wrong."

The man, who stood just a feet away from global leaders like US President Barack Obama at the memorial, was a fake and making “childish hand gestures and clapping, it was as if he had never learnt a word of sign language in his life”, the Telegraph quoted David Buxton, the CEO of the British Deaf Association, as saying.

The CEO said that the embarrasing act was derogatory to the deaf people.

"He is clearly a fraud who wanted to stand on stage with big and important people. It is incredibly disrespectful and hurtful to the deaf community," Buxton said.
The fake interpretation brought discomfiture and shock for all the deaf, who were relying on him to understand what the great global leaders had to say in the honour of Mandela.

Also, many took to Twitter to slam the fake man. One of them was a South African interpreter named Francois, who said that he was bringing disrepute for the community of interpreters.

The embarrassment was not an isolated case of mishandling by the organisation of the ceremony as traffic snarls already hit the number of people attending the memorial, making the visual of large swathes of empty orange seats in the stadium as awkward.

Adding to the awkwardness was a news that said that there was a burglary at the house of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in Cape Town as he made the speech.

Reports say that the fake man at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service had also interpreted for President Jacob Zuma at a military event last year.

At that appearance, a deaf person in the audience videotaped the event and gave it to the federation for the deaf, which analysed the video, prepared a report about it and a submitted a formal complaint to the ANC, said Bruno Druchen, the chief of advocates for the deaf.

He suggested to the ANC that the man must undergo a training for being qualified as a sign language interpreter, but the party never paid heed to it.