The South African sign language interpreter who was accused of being a ‘fraud’ for his translation of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service has blamed his actions on a schizophrenic episode.
The man, identified as 34-year-old Thamsanqa Jantjie, was accused by sign language organisations of just “flapping his arms around” during the event. Delphin Hlungwane, a spokesperson for the Deaf Federation of South Africa, said Jantjie was “just gesturing in the air” and that his hand signals had “zero percent accuracy”.
However Jantjie has told Johannesburg’s Star newspaper that he suffers from schizophrenia, for which he takes medication, and suffered an attack while on the stage. He claims he suddenly lost concentration and starting hearing voices and hallucinating.
AP press agency has reported that Jantjie saw ‘angels’ and has been violent in the past.
Jantjie told the paper that the magnitude of the situation and overwhelming emotions could have played a part in triggering the episode.
“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 reporters.
Nevertheless in a radio interview with Talk Radio 702 Jantjie said he was happy with his performance saying he has been a “champion” of sign language. When contacted by Reuters, Jantjie said he didn’t understand why people were complaining now, adding: “I’m not a failure. I deliver.”
Controversy over the ‘fake’ sign language and President Barack Obama’s ‘selfie’ moment have overshadowed the 10-day farewell to Mandela, whose body will lie in state until Friday before being flown to the Eastern Cape where he will be buried on Sunday.