Fake signer at Mandela's service triggers anger locally - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

'Fake' signer at Mandela's service triggers anger locally

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Members of the deaf community are calling Thamsanqa Jantjie an outright "fake," and say his signing accuracy was "zero percent." Members of the deaf community are calling Thamsanqa Jantjie an outright "fake," and say his signing accuracy was "zero percent."
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -

If you saw any of Nelson Mandela's memorial service, you may have seen a sign language interpreter there. Now many of the people that man was supposed to be interpreting for are outraged. They're calling Thamsanqa Jantjie an outright "fake," and say his signing accuracy was "zero percent."

President Barack Obama's speech at Tuesday's memorial service for the late Nelson Mandela was described as sentimental yet powerful, but the deaf have a much different response. David Hylan works with Shreveport's Deaf Advocacy Center. "She said it was disgusting," says Hylan, interpreting signs from a woman visiting the center. "It's just very confusing for the people."

Another man at the center signs, "That was pretty bad. He was inventing signs." The man pulls out a newspaper with Nelson Mandela's face covering half of the page and points at it as he signs. Hylan interprets for him, "He was saying that he remembers the stories about apartheid and Nelson Mandela's work ending apartheid. Said he shouldn't have done that, should never have done that."

"They were denied the opportunity to participate because this person, for whatever reason, decided to stand up there and make a mockery, not only of South African sign language, but of also of the event itself, and made a mockery of South African deaf community," says Hylan.

Jantjie defending himself, however. "I think I've been a champion of sign language. You know I've interpreted at many big events." He says he was having a schizophrenic episode, saying he was seeing visions of angels coming into the stadium.

Hylan asks the question many have wondered, "How did someone like that get so close to world leaders and South African government officials?" According to the Deaf Federation of South Africa, Jantjie had no formal training.

"You are basically providing a substandard service and that deaf person is not understanding what is going on and it is offensive and it is disrespectful, and it certainly is not legal," says Hylan.

The South African government says it contacted the company that employed the interpreter, but the owner has since disappeared. They are also looking into how the interpreter passed security background checks before the memorial.

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