‘I’m the great fake,’ says Thamsanqa Jantjie

The 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, I am the great fake because I expose what is going on in the government and the system,” Jantjie is heard saying in a video clip posted on social networking site Facebook.

In the clip, he is seen addressing a group of men seated inside 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.

Jantjie’s lack of interpreting skills at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service at the FNB Stadium on December 10 caused global amusement, outrage among the deaf community and concern at how he came to be within touching distance of world leaders like US president Barack Obama.

He admitted afterwards that he was receiving treatment for schizophrenia and was a patient at Sterkfontein. Jantjie had reportedly been scheduled to go for a check-up at the hospital on the same day as the memorial, but had 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 realised he was surrounded by armed police.

In the clip, Jantjie realises he is being filmed and asks the men not to 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.

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

“Today I am here ... Our people are outside there not having wheelchairs. There was no anyone with wheelchair [sic] 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.

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

But Jantjie was employed by a company owned by the ANC’s religious and traditional affairs desk head, Bantubahle Xozwa. Xozwa told the Sunday Times recently that Jantjie was employed as an administrator and facilitator in his company, South African Interpreters.

“Thamsanqa is not an interpreter,” Xozwa was quoted as saying.

He said Jantjie had acted in his own capacity when interpreting at the memorial service.

Besides his mental health problems, Jantjie has admitted to being part of a group that burnt two people to death in 2003.

“It was a community thing, what you call mob justice, and I was also there,” Jantjie was quoted as saying.

He and several others faced murder, attempted murder and kidnapping charges. Charges against him were dropped because he was found to be mentally unfit to stand trial.

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