Johannesburg, South Africa (4E) – The deaf interpreter who interpreted the speeches of world leaders at the Nelson Mandela memorial service in sign language admitted he was schizophrenic but disputed complaints that he is a fake.
“I am suffering from schizophrenia, which is controllable. I am under treatment,” Thamsanqa Jantjie told CNN on Thursday after he provoked a media frenzy and triggered a government investigation of his appearance in the event for allegedly being a bogus sign language professional.
In a separate interview with a local newspaper, Jantie said he suffered a schizophrenic attack while interpreting for U.S. President Barack Obama, Cuban President Raul Castro and other speakers at the memorial service for Mandela, who passed away at 95 last week.
Deaf and translator associations in South Africa were outraged by Jantie’s performance at the four-hour memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday accusing him of throwing meaningless hand signs.
Bruno Druchen, national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said Jantie mocked the sign language for showing no facial expressions while interpreting.
Jantie disputed the accusations saying he had been a deaf interpreter for many years and had interpreted in other big events in the past without getting complaints. Nonetheless, he apologized to those whom he offended if ever.
The government defended Jantie with Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, South Africa’s deputy minister of women, children and people with disabilities, saying in a news conference Thursday that he is not a fake interpreter. The official said there is no standard sign language in South Africa where different dialects are spoken.