Fake signer at Mandela event says he hallucinated - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Fake signer at Mandela event says he hallucinated

Posted: Updated:
  • Nelson Mandela - 1918-2013More>>

  • Fake signer at Mandela event accused in mob attack

    Fake signer at Mandela event accused in mob attack

    Monday, December 16 2013 3:46 PM EST2013-12-16 20:46:17 GMT
    Just when it seemed the scandal over the bogus sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial had run its course, a cousin and three friends say he was part of a mob that accosted two men found with a stolen television and burned them to death by setting fire to tires placed around their necks.
    Just when it seemed the scandal over the bogus sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial had run its course, a cousin and three friends say he was part of a mob that accosted two men found with a stolen television and burned them to death by setting fire to tires placed around their necks.
  • Fake signer at Mandela event says he hallucinated

    Fake signer at Mandela event says he hallucinated

    Thursday, December 12 2013 8:53 PM EST2013-12-13 01:53:57 GMT
    The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial says he suffers from schizophrenia and hallucinated and saw angels while gesturing incoherently just 3 feet away from President Barack Obama and other world leaders, outraging deaf people worldwide who said his signs amounted to gibberish.
    The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial says he suffers from schizophrenia and hallucinated and saw angels while gesturing incoherently just 3 feet away from President Barack Obama and other world leaders, outraging deaf people worldwide who said his signs amounted to gibberish.
  • Interpreter for deaf at Nelson Mandela memorial service called fake

    Interpreter for deaf at Nelson Mandela memorial service called fake

    Wednesday, December 11 2013 8:05 PM EST2013-12-12 01:05:24 GMT
    The sign-language interpreter on stage at Nelson Mandela's globally broadcast memorial service was a faker who was waving his arms around meaninglessly, advocates for the deaf said Wednesday.
    The sign-language interpreter on stage at Nelson Mandela's globally broadcast memorial service was a faker who was waving his arms around meaninglessly, advocates for the deaf said Wednesday.
JOHANNESBURG -

The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial says he suffers from schizophrenia and hallucinated and saw angels while gesturing incoherently just 3 feet away from President Barack Obama and other world leaders, outraging deaf people worldwide who said his signs amounted to gibberish.

South African officials scrambled Thursday to explain how they came to hire the man and said they were investigating what vetting process, if any, he underwent for his security clearance.

"In the process, and in the speed of the event, a mistake happened," deputy Cabinet minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said.

She apologized to deaf people around the world who were offended by the incomprehensible signing.

However, she declined to say whether a government department, the presidency or the ruling African National Congress party was responsible for hiring the sign interpreter, telling reporters it isn't the time to "point fingers and vilify each other and start shouting."

The man at the center of the controversy said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that he began hallucinating while onstage in the stadium filled with tens of thousands of people and that he tried not to panic because there were "armed policemen around me."

Thamsanqa Jantjie added that he has schizophrenia, was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for 19 months and has been violent in the past.

The disclosures raised serious security concerns for Obama, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other dignitaries who stood next to Jantjie as they eulogized Mandela at FNB Stadium in Soweto, the black township at the center of the struggle against racist white rule. Mandela died on Dec. 5 at 95.

In Washington, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said vetting for criminal history and other appropriate background checks of the people onstage were the responsibility of the South Africans. He added that Secret Service agents are "always in close proximity to the president."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on how South Africa handled the hiring of the translator.

However, he added: "If in fact the individual was not signing, that's unfortunate because that meant that people who rely on sign language to follow the speeches were not able to."

Jantjie has been seen on video performing sign language interpretation at other prominent events in South Africa criticized as fake by advocates for the deaf, including at an appearance last December with South African President Jacob Zuma.

The government left many questions about the bizarre episode unanswered, including how much money the translation company was paid and Jantjie's precise role in the company — and even whether it really exists.

AP journalists who visited the address Jantjie provided for SA Interpreters found a different company, whose managers said they knew nothing about the translation firm. A woman who answered the phone at a number Jantjie provided said she worked for the company that hired him but declined comment and hung up.

The government said it tried to track down the company but the owners "have vanished into thin air," according to Bogopane-Zulu, the deputy minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

She said the translation company offered sub-standard services and the rate they purportedly paid the translator, $77 a day, is far below the usual rate of up to $164 an hour.

Ordinarily, sign language interpreters in South Africa are switched every 20 minutes to maintain their concentration levels, she said. Jantjie was onstage for the entire service, which lasted more than four hours.

Jantjie, meanwhile, insisted he did proper sign language interpretation of the world leaders' speeches. But he also apologized for a performance dismissed by many experts as gibberish.

"I would like to tell everybody that if I've offended anyone, please, forgive me," Jantjie told the AP at his tidy home on the outskirts of Soweto that was outfitted with a big-screen TV in the living room and two late-model cars in the carport.

"What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium ... I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don't know the attack of this problem, how will it comes. Sometimes I react violent. ... Sometimes I will see things that chase me," he said.

"I was in a very difficult position," he added. "And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I'll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn't embarrass my country."

Asked if he had ever been violent, he responded: "Yes, a lot."

He declined to provide details, but responded to another question about his past violence by suggesting his illness was behind it. "I'm suffering from a very difficult illness. The illness that you are not in position of understanding yourself at times."

Jantjie said that on the day of the memorial service he was due for a regular six-month mental health checkup to determine whether the medication he takes was working or needs to be changed, or whether he should enter a mental health facility for treatment.

He did not tell SA Interpreters that he was due for the checkup, but said an owner of the company was aware of his condition.

Police went to his home later Thursday to check on his well-being and determined that he was not a danger to himself or others, police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila said.

A medical expert with University College London said Jantjie's unusual sign language didn't look like it was caused by schizophrenia or another psychosis.

"The disruption of sign language in people with schizophrenia takes many forms, but this does not look like anything I have seen in signers with psychosis," said Jo Atkinson, a clinical psychologist and researcher at the Center for Deafness, Cognition and Language.

Jantjie said he is officially classified as disabled by the government because of his schizophrenia. He said he has been on medication for nine years, and had taken it the day of the memorial service.

Jantjie said he received one year of sign language interpretation training, though advocates for the deaf say qualified interpreters in South Africa must undergo five years of training.

__

By ALAN CLENDENNING and JUERGEN BAETZ The Associated Press

Associated Press reporters Ray Faure and Nastasya Tay in Johannesburg and Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow Alan Clendenning on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/alanclendenning

Follow Juergen Baetz on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jbaetz

  • Viral StoriesMore>>

  • Former contractor says she was attacked by rats at DC's Providence Hospital

    Former contractor says she was attacked by rats at DC's Providence Hospital

    Friday, July 25 2014 11:03 AM EDT2014-07-25 15:03:00 GMT
    It is an odd and very disturbing story. A hospital contractor in Northeast D.C. was attacked by rats on the job and they are the same rats she says are eating bodies in the morgue.
    It is an odd and very disturbing story. A hospital contractor in Northeast D.C. was attacked by rats on the job and they are the same rats she says are eating bodies in the morgue.
  • Surgeons find 10-year-old sex toy inside woman's body

    Surgeons find 10-year-old sex toy inside woman's body

    Friday, July 25 2014 10:49 AM EDT2014-07-25 14:49:35 GMT
    After complaining of various health problems, a Scottish woman was found to have a sex toy inside her vagina – and that it had been left there for 10 years. According to a report by STV News, the 38-year-old visited Aberdeen Royal Infirmary after contracting sepsis and experiencing severe weight loss and urinary incontinence. At the hospital, doctors conducted an X-ray of her abdomen, which showed the five-inch toy protruding into her bladder from her vagina. According to the Dail...
    After complaining of various health problems, a Scottish woman was found to have a sex toy inside her vagina – and that it had been left there for 10 years. According to a report by STV News, the 38-year-old visited Aberdeen Royal Infirmary after contracting sepsis and experiencing severe weight loss and urinary incontinence. At the hospital, doctors conducted an X-ray of her abdomen, which showed the five-inch toy protruding into her bladder from her vagina. According to the Dail...
  • New wristband will shock users if they miss fitness goals

    New wristband will shock users if they miss fitness goals

    Thursday, July 24 2014 1:02 PM EDT2014-07-24 17:02:43 GMT
    A new wristband design will deliver an electric shock if the wearer does not meet fitness goals. The Pavlok wristband will be designed to track daily performance. According to the company’s website, the Pavlok compels you into keeping workout and fitness goals by using feedback, reinforcement and electric shock. READ MORE: http://pavlok.com/
    A new wristband design will deliver an electric shock if the wearer does not meet fitness goals. The Pavlok wristband will be designed to track daily performance. According to the company’s website, the Pavlok compels you into keeping workout and fitness goals by using feedback, reinforcement and electric shock. READ MORE: http://pavlok.com/
Powered by WorldNow

WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
5151 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
Main Number: (202) 244-5151
Newsroom: (202) 895-3000
fox5tips@wttg.com

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices