Madiba memorial interpreter responds

By admin
12 December 2013

The sign language interpreter at the former President Nelson Mandela’s official state memorial service held on Tuesday responded to accusations of him being a fake interpreter.

The deaf community was outraged by Thamsanqa Jantjie’s interpreting, calling it a “flapping of hands”. Jantjie however is happy with his performance. "If I interpreted wrong, why is it an issue now? Why wasn't it an issue when I was doing interpretation at MaSisulu's (Albertina Sisulu) funeral and many big events in South Africa?" he told the Mail & Guardian. Then, bizarrely, he changed his tune, claiming to have suffered a schizophrenic episode on stage. “I have schizophrenia but I'm taking medication for it,” he says. He lost his concentration, started hearing loud voices and then hallucinated, he adds.

'I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry'

"There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation,” he told the weekly newspaper. “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. My ability to hear was impaired, which made interpreting very difficult.”

“It is highly unlikely that his incorrect signing was caused by a schizophrenic episode but there is always a slight possibility of it being the cause,” Johannesburg-based counselling psychologist Debbie Bright says.

Jantjies is a senior interpreter at Interpreters SA, the company that hired him for the memorial service. They paid him R850 for that day’s work he says.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterised by a breakdown in one’s thought process and impaired emotional responses. Its symptoms included paranoia and delusion.

- Koketso Mashika


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