‘Fake’ Interpreter at Mandela Event: I’m Schizophrenic

December 12, 2013  

The “fake” sign-language interpreter who baffled audiences at a memorial event for Nelson Mandela has claimed he was not faking at all – but suffering from a schizophrenic episode.

In an interview which will raise further concerns over security arrangements and vetting procedures at the Johannesburg event, 34 year-old Thamsanqa Jantjie told the Johannesburg Star that he “saw angels” descending on the crowd and realized he was about to suffer an attack.

He said the on-stage episode was either triggered by the magnitude of what he was doing or the happiness he felt throughout the day.

Jantjie said that apart from the visions he also heard very loud noises which made it impossible for him to hear proceedings. Essentially incapacitated and unable to do his job, he nevertheless attempted to soldier on – unsuccessfully.

Britain’s Telegraph newspaper quoted David Buxton, the CEO of the British Deaf Association, as describing the resultant performance as no more than “childish hand gestures and clapping, it was as if he had never learnt a word of sign language in his life”.

Janjie claims that the condition he suffers from also sometimes manifests itself in fits of rage – a particularly concerning revelation given his close proximity to several world leaders and other leading personalities.

“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 claimed.

“Life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn’t understand this illness will think that I’m just making this up,” he added.

He takes medication for his condition but it has nevertheless left him largely unemployed and surviving on incapacity benefits. When his agency called him up for the job at the memorial service he was “honored” to take the opportunity.

The South African government have launched an investigation into the agency which recommended him for the job.

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