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Nelson Mandela funeral fake sign language interpreter tells of his mental problems

By Kim Sengupta

The bogus sign language interpreter who translated an address by Barack Obama into gibberish at Nelson Mandela's memorial service has admitted he was a violent schizophrenic who "heard voices" and saw "angels" during the event.

It has emerged that Thamsanqa Jantjie – who has become known as 'Deaf Con Global' in South Africa – was unlikely to have been vetted by authorities before being put on the podium.

Mr Jantjie, who has been officially categorised as disabled because of schizophrenia, had been in mental institutions and had been involved in acts of violence.

Mr Jantjie (34) told Johannesburg's Star newspaper yesterday that he suffered a schizophrenic episode and began hearing voices and hallucinating while on stage.

Asked how often he had become violent, he said "a lot", but declined to provide details.

He was sorry about what happened, but insisted that he was using his interpreting skills correctly. "I was doing the right thing. I'm not a failure. I can deliver. I was doing what I believe is my calling. I was doing what I believe makes a difference."

Mr Jantjie claimed that he had undergone a year of training at a school in Cape Town. He admitted, however, that he was due for a six-monthly mental health check-up which would have included assessment of whether the medication he was on was working.

He said he had a relapse during the ceremony at the stadium in Soweto on Tuesday.

"I was in a very difficult position," he said. "And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed. 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."

The deputy cabinet minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu acknowledged that "a mistake happened" in the hiring of Mr Jantjie. She refused to say which arm of the government was responsible, stating: "We are trying to establish what happened".


"I see angels come to the stadium ... I start realising that the problem is here. And the problem, I don't know the attack of this problem, how will it come. Sometimes I get violent on that place. I will see things chasing me."

Thamsanqa Jantjie

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph