Alleged Fake Interpreter at Mandela memorial opens up

A South African sign language interpreter accused of making up his own signs during a memorial to Nelson Mandela has revealed he may have suffered a schizophrenic episode on stage after claiming he saw 'angels' at the event.

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

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

Mr Jantjie, who stood gesticulating near President Obama and others who spoke at Tuesday's ceremony that was broadcast around 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 dollars (£52) for interpreting the event.

But he also apologized 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,'Mr Jantjie said in his concrete home in a low-income Johannesburg neighborhood

'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 realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don't know the attack of this problem, how will it comes. Sometimes I react violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things that chase me,' Mr 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.'
Asked how often he had become violent, he said 'a lot' while declining to provide details.

Mr Jantjie said he was due on the day of the ceremony to get a regular six-month mental health checkup 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.

South Africa's leading deaf association had yesterday claimed he was a fake and said he was inventing signs.


  1. So how did he get to b d interpreter for dat day? How come his background wasnt checked to ascertain his credibility before using him as d interpreter for dat day.derz more to dz story joo

  2. This will forever mar the great memorial, the govt playing politics denying the mans appointment, mtcheeeeew. Incompetent mufu, see the mans cheek sef.


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