Mandela ‘signer’ sent to psych unit

 Thamsanqa Jantjie 'signing' US president Barack Obama's speech at the memorial for Nelson Mandela. Picture: AP

The interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial, who said that he had suffered a schizophrenic episode during the service after being labelled a fraud, has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, South African media reported.

Thamsanqa Jantjie’s sign language performance at last week’s event sparked outrage, with experts saying his translations of the eulogies — including those by US president Barack Obama and Mandela’s grandchildren — amounted to little more than “flapping his arms around” and “just making funny gestures.”

The Star newspaper said Jantjie’s wife Siziwe had taken her husband for a check-up at a psychiatric hospital near Johannesburg on Tuesday, which suggested he be admitted immediately.

“The past few days have been hard. We have been supportive because he might have had a breakdown,” she was quoted as saying.

Jantjie had been scheduled for a check-up at the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, on Dec 10.

But the appointment was moved after he was offered the job to sign at the Mandela memorial which took place the same day, the newspaper reported.

Jantjie has claimed he is a qualified signer for the deaf but that his performance was down to a sudden attack of schizophrenia, for which he takes medication.

“I saw angels falling on the stadium. I heard voices and lost concentration,” he has said. Local media have since reported that he was part of a mob that burnt two people to death 10 years ago — allegations he has denied — and that he had also allegedly faced rape, kidnapping, and theft charges.

Mandela’s memorial was attended by nearly 100 sitting and former heads of state or government.

The South African government has admitted a “mistake” had been made as it launched an investigation into the scandal.

It has also apologised to the deaf community for any offence it may have caused.

In his home province of Free State, local media claimed Jantjie has impersonated a lawyer and a traditional healer, though he has refused to comment.


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