|Mandela memorial interpreter claims hallucinations
The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial has said a bout of schizophrenia was to blame for accusations that he was an imposter who gesticulated nonsense during the entire service.
Thamasanqa Jantjie was branded as a scurrilous fake after members of South Africa's hearing-impaired community said his signing Tuesday had amounted to nothing more than “flapping his arms around.''
In an interview Thursday with the Johannesburg daily, The Star, Jantjie put his behaviour down to a sudden attack of schizophrenia, for which he takes medication, AFP reports.
He told the newspaper that he lost concentration, started hearing voices and hallucinating.
“There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation,'' he said.
“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 added.
Jantjie's efforts at the memorial service, during which he translated eulogies by US President Barack Obama among others, triggered outrage.
Cara Loening, director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town, labelled him a “complete fraud'' whose signing looked like someone “trying to swat a few flies away from his face and his head.’’
Asked why he didn't just leave the stage, Jantjie said that, given the historic importance of the event, he felt compelled to stay even though he could not hear or concentrate properly.
“Life is unfair. This illness is unfair,'' he said.
“Anyone who doesn't understand this illness will think that I'm just making this up,'' he added.
Attended by nearly 100 sitting and former heads of state or government, the speeches at Mandela's memorial were supposed to be interpreted into sign language for hearing-impaired viewers.