Signer claims ‘schiz­o­phrenic’ mo­ment at Man­dela event

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Jo­han­nes­burg, South Africa

A South African sign lan­guage in­ter­preter ac­cused of mim­ing non­sense as world lead­ers paid trib­ute to Nel­son Man­dela de­fended him­self as a “cham­pion” signer on Thurs­day, but said he suf­fered a schiz­o­phrenic episode dur­ing the event.

The in­ter­preter, 34-year-old Thamsanqa Jan­tjie, told Jo­han­nes­burg’s Star news­pa­per he started hear­ing voices and hal­lu­ci­nat­ing while on stage, re­sult­ing in ges­tures that made no sense to out­raged deaf peo­ple around the world.

Jan­tjie was branded as a scur­rilous fake af­ter mem­bers of South Africa’s deaf com­mu­nity said his sign­ing at Tues­day’s memo­rial cer­e­mony had amounted to noth­ing more than “flap­ping his arms around”.

“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 pa­per.

He did not know what trig­gered the at­tack, he added, say­ing he took med­i­ca­tion for his schizophre­nia.

Mil­lions of TV view­ers saw Jan­tjie in­ter­pret­ing for lead­ers in­clud­ing US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and his South African coun­ter­part, Ja­cob Zuma, at Tues­day’s Man­dela memo­rial.

South Africa’s lead­ing deaf as­so­ci­a­tion de­nounced Jan­tjie as a fake who was mak­ing up ges­tures as he stood yards away from world lead­ers.

The con­tro­versy has raised awk­ward ques­tions over se­cu­rity at the event and cast a shadow over South Africa’s 10-day farewell to Man­dela, whose re­mains were ly­ing in state for a se­cond day on Thurs­day at Pre­to­ria’s Union Build­ings, where he was sworn in as the na­tion’s first black pres­i­dent in 1994.

It also heaps more pres­sure on Zuma, who was booed by the crowd on Tues­day af­ter a slew of cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions against him and his ad­min­is­tra­tion. Footage from two large ANC events last year shows Jan­tjie sign­ing on stage next to the pres­i­dent.

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