A sign language interpreter who translated for many of the world’s leaders at Nelson Mandela’s memorial was accused of using fake hand gestures. He responded to the accusations by claiming he suffered a schizophrenic attack that affected his performance.
34-year-old Thamsanqa Jantjie told South African media that he began to hallucinate when he was up on stage and also “heard voices” that confused him.
Apoplectic deaf viewers watching Tuesday’s service for Madiba (Mandela’s original clan name) immediately noticed that Jantjie was incompetent, and speculated that he was actually a fraud.
Jantjie stated he is an employee at SA Interpreters, where he works as a senior interpreter. At Tuesday’s emotional event, he was supposed to interpret the eulogies of several key speakers, including President Barack Obama and Mr Mandela’s grandchildren.
Jantjie confirmed that he lost his way because of the voices in his head. Speaking to Johannesburg’s Star newspaper, Jantjie explained, “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.”
He also admitted that, in the past, he was a “patient receiving a treatment in schizophrenia,” and he believes that this ailment might have lead to his poor showing,
However, Jantjie told another radio interview that he was actually pleased with his performance, remarking to Talk Radio 702, “I’ve interpreted in many big events. I think I’ve been a champion of sign language.”
He then added, “If I was not interpreting right, why was it was not picked up at that time? You must remember, you are talking about an interpreter who has been interpreting through these years. And if I was interpreting wrong through these years, why should it become an issue now? It’s one of the questions I’ve never ever gotten an answer for.”
Footage has now emerged of Jantjie performing at two big ANC events over the last 12 months, one of which saw him translate for South African President Jacob Zuma.
South Africa’s Translators’ Institute has now admitted that they have received several complaints about Jantjie’s work in the past. But despite these warnings, no action was actually taken against him.
In response to the criticism, the South African government reassured the world they “are clear in defending the rights and dignity of people with disabilities.”
Did you notice Thamsanqa Jantjie’s poor interpretation at the Mandela Memorial?