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Sign-language Interpreter at Mandela Memorial: ‘I am a Great Fake’

Thamsanqa JantjieThe bogus sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, Thamsanqa Jantjie, has called himself “a great fake”.

“Even if they call me a fake, but I am the great fake because I expose what is going on in the government and system,” Mr. Jantjie is heard saying in a video clip posted on social networking site Facebook this week.

In the clip he is seen addressing a group of men seated in a car while he stands outside the open front passenger window. He is wearing a blue T-shirt with the word “Sterkfontein” on it — a psychiatric hospital in Krugersdorp, on Gauteng’s West Rand, to which he was reportedly readmitted last week.

Mr. Jantjie’s lack of interpreting skills at former president Mandela’s memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Dec. 10 caused global amusement, outrage in the deaf community and concern at how he came to be within touching distance of world leaders such as President Barack Obama.

Mr Jantjie admitted afterward that he was receiving treatment for schizophrenia and was a patient at Sterkfontein. He reportedly had been scheduled to go for a check-up at the hospital on the same day as the memorial, but missed his appointment.

He told various media outlets he suffered a schizophrenic episode during the event and saw angels. He claimed he panicked when he realized he was surrounded by armed police.

In the Facebook clip, Mr. Jantjie realizes he is being filmed and asks the men to not distribute the video, saying “this clip can go somewhere”. The men assure him the clip will not be distributed and he continues speaking to them.

Mr. Jantjie goes on to say that he is an advocate for people with disabilities, saying the needs of the disabled should be catered for.

“Today I am here … Our people are outside there not having wheelchairs. There was not anyone with a wheelchair there in that stadium while I was interpreting and then you tell me I was wrong. Where was the right if I was wrong?” he asks.

Mr. Jantjie also “interpreted” at the African National Congress’s national conference in Mangaung in December 2012. The party has distanced itself from him, claiming it was a service provider who hired him.

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