The Daily Grind Video

Embroiled in a firestorm of criticism and ridicule that he is a “fake,” the sign language interpreter who performed at Nelson Mandela’s memorial has come forward with some shocking news.

Thamsanqa Jantjie claims the reason he was signing “gibberish” is because he suffers from schizophrenia and was having an episode in the middle of interpreting.

In an Associated Press interview, the interpreter said that he began hallucinating and seeing angels while signing. He tried not to panic because there were armed policemen around.

“What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium … I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it comes. Sometimes I react violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things that chase me,” Jantjie said.

“I was in a very difficult position,” he added. “And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I’ll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn’t embarrass my country.”

Jantjie expressed his remorse for signing the unfamiliar gestures to the hearing impaired.

“I would like to tell everybody that if I’ve offended anyone, please, forgive me. But what I was doing, I was doing what I believe is my calling, I was doing what I believe makes a difference.”

“For the deaf association, if they think that I’ve done a wrong interpretation, I ask forgiveness,” Jantjie said.

The day of the memorial, Jantjie said he was scheduled to get a regular six-month mental health checkup to determine whether the medication he was taking worked. The company that contracted him, SA Interpreters in Johannesburg, did know of his condition, but they did not, he said, know about his appointment.

But some digging from an AP journalist found that the company might not even exist.

AP journalists who visited the address of the company that Jantjie provided found a different company there where managers said they knew nothing about SA Interpreters. A woman answered the phone at a number that Jantjie provided and said it was not for the company, and another phone number went to a voicemail that did not identify the person or company with the number.

Jantjie said he received one year of sign language interpretation at a school in Cape Town, and insisted that he has previously interpreted at many events without anyone complaining.

Hmmm. Whatever the case, we hope he gets the help he needs.


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