The man who served as a sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's funeral Tuesday in Johannesburg was a total fake who "made up his own signs" and was "literally flapping his arms around," experts say.
The international deaf community quickly took to Twitter and multiple media outlets to lambast the interpreter who they claim was not using any standard form of South African or English sign language.
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"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."
"It seems quite obvious that the interpreter isn't using South African sign language," Sheena Walters, Oceania representative for the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters, told Australia's SBS News
. "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."
Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African citizen and a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section, said the signer humiliated the deaf community with his ridiculous performance.
"What happened at the memorial service is truly disgraceful thing to see – it should not happen at all," he told SBS. "What happened today will be forever aligned with Nelson Mandela and the deaf community, thanks to this fake interpreter."
Bruno Druchen, the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, and others who were offended by the fraud immediately took to Twitter Tuesday to blast the unidentified man.
It's not clear how the interpreter even ended up on stage or what his credentials are. Wilma Newhoudt, a deaf member of the South African Parliament and vice president of the World Federation of the Deaf, said the man is not known to anyone in the South African deaf community.
According to SBS, his professional credentials are currently being reviewed by the Deaf Federation of South Africa. If he's found to be unqualified, his appearance at Mandela's funeral could constitute a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified by the South African government in 2007.
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