Mandela Interpreter 'For Real,' Blames Hallucinations for Wackiness (Video)

Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 07:31 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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The sign language interpreter who was branded a fake after "literally flapping his arms around" while translating Nelson Mandela's funeral services this week apparently is for real and he blames schizophrenic hallucinations for his wackiness during the event.

The deaf community was outraged Tuesday when Thamsanqa Jantjie, 34, took to the stage in Johannesburg to translate the speeches of dignitaries and leaders from all over the world, including President Barack Obama.

"He was a complete fraud," Cara Loening, director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town, told Agence France-Presse, via the New York Daily News. "He wasn't even doing anything. There was not one sign there. Nothing. He was literally flapping his arms around."

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The incident even caused the Deaf Federation of South Africa to launch an investigation into Jantjie and his credentials.

"The interpreter at the service was clearly not competent and did not use hand shapes, movements, or facial expressions typical of South African sign language," Andries van Niekerk, spokesman for South Africa's National Institute for the Deaf, told the Johannesburg Star. "The NID is saddened that the deaf in attendance [at the service] could not understand what other great statesmen said about the legacy that the father of our nation leaves behind."

Now, Jantjie is speaking out and saying he lost concentration and began signing nonsensically because he started to hear loud voices in his head that made it difficult to hear the speakers.

"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 told the Star.

Jantjie reportedly works for a company called SA Interpreters, which was commission by the African National Congress to provide an interpreter for the funeral after Mandela died last week at age 95.

Footage from previous ANC events from last year shows Jantjie signing next to South African President Jacob Zuma, but members of the deaf community said they are not familiar with him.

Before his interview with the Star, Jantjie spoke with Talk Radio 702 and said he was happy with his performance Tuesday.

"Absolutely, absolutely. I think that I've been a champion of sign language," he said, according to NBC News.

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