I assume by now that you have all heard that the man performing sign language and Nelson Mandela’s memorial service was just making up gestures. He didn’t know sign language. According to AP:
The unidentified man seen around the world on television next to leaders including United States President Barack Obama “was moving his hands around but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for,” Bruno Druchen, the federation’s national director, told The Associated Press.
The scandal over the interpreter is another indication of bad organization of the historic memorial service at a huge soccer stadium. Other difficulties included faulty public transport which hindered mourners from getting to the event and a faulty audio system that prevented many of the tens of thousands present from hearing the leaders’ speeches.
South Africa’s government told AP it was preparing a statement. Jackson Mthembu, spokesman for the governing African National Congress party, declined to comment. “Government will be able to assist you,” Mthembu said.
Druchen and three other sign language experts said the man was not signing in South African or American sign languages and could not have been signing in any other known sign language because there was no structure to his arm and hand movements. South African sign language covers all of the country’s 11 official languages, according to the federation.
Ingrid Parkin, principal of the St. Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg, said she’s received complaints from the deaf community from Canada to China about the man on stage and that his movements look “like he’s signing gibberish.” He also used no facial expression to convey the emotions of the leaders, a key element of sign language interpretation.
This, of course, seems perfect: a man interpreting the speech of politicians, including the words of President Obama, as a series of empty, meaningless gestures. But it turns out that the sign language fraudster also has a rap sheet.
eNCA can reveal the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial on Tuesday faced a murder charge in 2003.
It’s unknown if the case was ever concluded as the court file is mysteriously empty.
eNCA’s investigations have found that Thamsanqa Jantjie, who is being treated for schizophrenia, has also faced rape (1994), theft (1995), housebreaking (1997), malicious damage to property (1998), murder, attempted murder and kidnapping (2003) charges.
Many of the charges brought against him were dropped, allegedly because he was mentally unfit to stand trial.
Jantjie was acquitted on the rape charge, but he was convicted of theft for which he was sentenced to three years in prison. It’s unclear if he ever spent time in jail.
The story makes a point that this dangerous lunatic was standing only a foot away from President Obama and sharing the stage with many other world leaders. But while I can see the security problem, it seems totally appropriate that such a man would be present among politicians.