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Language interpretation


The company which supplied a “fake” sign language interpreter to the Mandela memorial service has vanished, a South African minister has said.

Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu apologized to the deaf community for the poor quality of interpretation given by Thamsanqa Jantjie from SA Interpreters.

“He is Xhosa speaking. The English was a bit too much for him,” she said.

Thamsanqa Jantjie himself has blamed his flawed interpretation on a schizophrenic episode.

He also admitted he has been violent in the past.

Thamsanqa Jantjie has blamed his flawed interpretation on a schizophrenic episode

Thamsanqa Jantjie has blamed his flawed interpretation on a schizophrenic episode

During the memorial, Thamsanqa Jantjie was employed to stand on the stage next to key speakers such as President Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren, translating their eulogies.

But the minister denied there was a security issue, saying the interpreter had been properly accredited.

Nelson Mandela died last week at the age of 95, and will be buried on Sunday, December 15.

Ever since Tuesday’s event, pressure has been mounting on the government to explain why Thamsanqa Jantjie was hired for such an important event.

During a press conference, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the deputy minister for women, children and people with disabilities, admitted that a mistake had been made but said there was no reason for the country to be embarrassed.

“There are as many as a hundred sign language dialects,” Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said, to explain the difficulties he faced.

“He started well and later he became tired. Guidelines say we must switch interpreters every 20 minutes.”

Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu did not rule out employing him in some circumstances again.

But she accused Thamsanqa Jantjie’s employers, SA Interpreters, of being cheats, and said the company’s directors had now vanished into thin air.

His performance was watched on television by millions of people worldwide.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said that during the event, he had lost concentration because of voices in his head.

He had started hallucinating, and saw angels coming into the stadium.

Thamsanqa Jantjie also indicated that his past behavior had sometimes been unpredictable, telling the Associated Press news agency that “sometimes I will react violent on this place, sometimes I will see things chasing me”.

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Deaf viewers have complained that the official sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service was inept.

According to the Deaf Federation of South Africa, the man’s signs were “arbitrary” and “did not make sense”.

Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, South Africa’s first deaf female MP, tweeted that the interpreter was “signing rubbish”.

The man was “employed by ANC head office or used by them” but didn’t use South African sign language.

Nelson Mandela's memorial deaf interpreter used fake sign language

Nelson Mandela’s memorial deaf interpreter used fake sign language

“ANC-linked interpreter on the stage with dep president of ANC is signing rubbish. He cannot sign. Please get him off,” Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen tweeted during the live broadcast.

The ANC refused to comment on whether it had used the interpreter at previous events.

South Africa’s government said it was preparing a statement, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The sign language interpreter has yet to be publicly identified.

Francois Deysal, who is a signing trainer at the Deaf Federation of South Africa, said he was “not known to the deaf community or other interpreters in South Africa”.

South African sign language has its own structure and is not linked to any spoken language like Afrikaans, Xhosa or English..

South African Braam Jordaan, the Young Deaf Leader for the World Federation of the Deaf, said the man was “creating his own signs”.

Braam Jordaan said deaf people had been excluded in South Africa long before apartheid happened.

There is one sign language interpreter for every 10,000 deaf people in South Africa, he said via an interpreter.

Major national and international news channels broadcast Nelson Mandela’s state memorial service live on Tuesday.

The man was seen on stage signing as friends and family of Nelson Mandela, and world leaders, paid tribute to the former South African president.

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