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Donald Henderson
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Jantjies in a flap

12 December 2013, 13:13

The memorial for Nelson Mandela was certainly not without its lighter moments. It is a delightful tradition to celebrate a life rather than mourn the passing and the crowds in the stadium and elsewhere in the country did not disappoint with boisterous dancing and singing, and costumes of all different bright colours.

But the man who stole the show must be the con artist of the year, now identified as Thamsanqa Jantjies, who flapped his arms, wrists, hands and fingers amid top international politicians, including the President of the United States, and our own President Jacob Zuma, with what turned out to be gibberish.

Not even the “tight security” of a glass cage for VIPs could stop our delightful mis-interpreter as he performed like a professional Hollywood actor taking part in a hilarious comedy sketch. Dignitary after dignitary squeezed passed his chubby presence to deliver their speech unaware of the con that was being played out at their side. The main leaders of today’s world were put at risk by a major security blunder. Fortunately, it was not an organised peril but the implications or threat was still there.

As his anonymity was maintained, tweets suggested that perhaps it was a Zulu version for the deaf or that perhaps he is dyslexic. There was also the question of how he interpreted the booing. But Jantjies claims  in a Cape Times report that he had a schizophrenic attack. During the speeches he lost concentration, started hearing voices and began hallucinating.

Whatever his reasons for appearing in such an obvious, to the frustrated deaf, scam it is yet another embarrassment for the government. When asked who he was and why he was chosen for the task various officials denied any knowledge and passed the buck in the language of denial which we have become used to. It would have been simple to find out who he was, however, as Jantjies made a previous appearance as interpreter at last year’s ANC conference in Manguang. And even then there were questions raised about his competency. He must be a brother, cousin or friend of a high-ranking official.

Latest comments suggest that he is indeed a government employee, employed by the Justice Department, which would include him in the list of jokers. And there are claims that he was paid £85 for the day, which is not poor pay for an actor.

Whatever the reasons and despite the humour of the situation it is a critical breach of security at a major international event which carries with it serious implications for future events.

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