News Column

Fake Deaf Interpreter Was Hallucinating, Has Schizophrenia

December 12, 2013

The man identified by the deaf community as a fake interpreter during Nelson Mandela's memorial service also gave a fake reference, Deaf SA (South Africa) said.

Deaf SA said Tuesday's memorial wasn't the first event Thamsanqa Jantjies translated, saying he interpreted at some of South Africa's biggest events, including anti-apartheid activist Albertina Sisulu's funeral, Sowetan Live reported Thursday.

But Jantjies maintained he is a fully qualified interpreter and has handled other events, Radio 702 in Johannesburg said.

"I've interpreted in many press conferences, including the presidential conference," he said. "There was no one at all that said I interpreted wrong."

During the interview with Radio 702, Jantjies acknowledged he was a "patient receiving a treatment in schizophrenia."

National South Africa language interpreter at Deaf SA, Delphin Hlungwane, said Interpreters SA, the company Jantjies gave as a reference, "does not exist. We even Googled and found nothing."

"It was upsetting for Deaf SA because deaf people did not have access to the memorial," Hlungwane said. "SA deaf people were denied from being part of the memorial and other countries did not have an interpreter, it was disrespectful for the deaf. He was not translating from any recognizable language."

Sowetan Live said efforts to reach Jantjies were unsuccessful.

The service to commemorate Mandela, who died last week at 95, was broadcast to millions of viewers.

When world dignitaries spoke during the service, Jantjies did hand signals experts said meant nothing, CNN said.

"It was almost like he was doing baseball signs," deaf actress Marlee Matlin told CNN Wednesday through an interpreter. "I was appalled."

What gave Jantjies away was the lack of facial expression, Matlin said.

"I knew exactly right then and there that he wasn't authentic at all," she said, "and it was offensive; it was offensive to me."

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Original headline: Report: Reference given by fake deaf interpreter phony, too