South African sign language interpreter admitted to a psychiatric hospital

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, December 19, 2013 7:51 EDT
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Barack Obama delivers a speech during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg (AFP)
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The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial, who claimed schizophrenia after being accused of being an arm-flapping fraud, has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, South African media reported on Thursday.

Thamsanqa Jantjie sparked outrage for his translations of eulogies, including by U.S. President Barack Obama and Mandela’s grandchildren, at the service last week, with sign language experts saying his signing amounted to little more than “flapping his arms around” and “just making funny gestures.”

On Thursday the Star newspaper said Jantjie’s wife Siziwe had taken her husband for a check-up to a psychiatric hospital near Johannesburg on Tuesday, which suggested he be admitted immediately.

“The past few days have been hard. We have been supportive because he might have had a breakdown,” she was quoted as saying.

Jantjie had been scheduled for a check-up at the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, on December 10.

But the appointment was moved after he was offered the job to sign at the memorial which took place the same day, the newspaper reported.

Jantjie has claimed that he is a qualified signer but that his performance was down to a sudden attack of schizophrenia, for which he takes medication.

“I saw angels falling on the stadium. I heard voices and lost concentration,” he has said.

Local media then reported that he had been part of a mob that burnt two people to death 10 years ago — allegations that he has dismissed — and that he had also faced rape, kidnapping and theft charges.

Mandela’s memorial was attended by nearly 100 sitting and former heads of state or government.

The government apologized to the deaf community following the scandal.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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