Obama Sign Language Interpreter At Mandela Memorial Was Fake, Signs Made No Sense

Barack Obama’s sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service was allegedly a fake, whose signs didn’t make any sense to the deaf people watching.

Obama’s speech was hailed as one the President’s greatest ever oratory performances, however a leading member of the World Deaf Federation has confirmed that the interpreter next to him was just making it up as he went along.

Deaf South African, Braam Jordaan, stated, “The structure of his hand, facial expressions and the body movements did not follow what the speaker was saying.”

Jordaan went on to tell the SBS news website, “I was really upset and humiliated. He made up his own signs. What happened at the memorial service is truly disgraceful thing to see – it should not happen at all. What happened today will be forever aligned with Nelson Mandela and the deaf community, thanks to this fake interpreter.”

It wasn’t as if people at the event on Tuesday didn’t notice that the unknown man was rather inept. Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, who was the first deaf woman to be elected to South African parliament, tweeted:

She then added:

An ANC spokesman said on Wednesday, “I don’t know this guy. He doesn’t work for the ANC. It was a government event,” while it has since been confirmed that President Jacob Zuma is now attempting to identify the man responsible.

It’s also been reported that members of South Africa’s deaf community have repeatedly criticised the interpreter’s work, after he worked at other African National Congress events.

The World Assocation of Sing Language Interpreters’ Sheena Walters told SBS news, “It seems quite obvious that the interpreter isn’t using South African sign language. Most sign languages across the world share a similar structure and pattern and this person seems to be making a lot of repetitive signs and isn’t displaying the usual facial expression or structure of sign language that you would normally see.”

During his speech, President Barack Obama honored Madiba, Nelson Mandela’s traditional clan name, as one of the greatest human beings in history, telling the audience before him:

“It took a man like Madiba to free, not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well, to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you, to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth.”

What are your memories of Nelson Mandela?