When a sign language interpreter hired to work onstage during Nelson Mandela's memorial service was revealed to be signing nonsense, the world was up in arms. And fair enough! It was incredibly disrespectful to that great leader to have someone pretending to know sign language on stage 'translating' the words of Mandela's grandchildren and leaders from around the world including President Obama.
What made the incident even more shocking? Once his skills (or lack thereof) had been confirmed, it was soon discovered that this wasn't the first time he had been hired to work in such a major capacity. But now reports are coming in that indicate this might be more than a simple instance of fakery. It turns out there's something much more troubling afoot.
More from The Stir: 'Fake' Sign Language Interpreter at Mandela Memorial Just Made Up Signs
The interpreter in question, Thamsanqua Jantjie, told reporters that he does, in fact, know sign language. The reason he devolved into nonsense signs? He was suffering intense hallucinations at the time of the memorial. When asked about his strange behavior, Jantjie had this to say:
What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium ... I start realizing that the problem is here. Sometimes I react violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things that chase me. 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.
Um. So. Yeah. That guy stood three feet away from our President. Someone who admittedly has mental problems that sound not unlike symptoms indicating schizophrenia. Mental illness is nothing to take lightly, and it sounds like -- if his claims are true -- Jantjie was terrified.
However, no one can confirm whether or not Jantijie's story is true or if it's just another lie. The lack of answers to these questions about his basic background are deeply troubling.
The Secret Service released a statement detailing how officials like interpreters are hired by the host country. Which is all well and good, but you'd think they'd at least hold the host country to a more rigorous standard when it comes to background checks, right?
Jantjie claims his employer knew he was ill and that he, in fact, had a doctor's appointment that day. But now the company that employed him has seemingly vanished overnight. If Jantjie is seriously ill, we can only hope he gets the help and support he needs and be thankful that poor signing was the worst thing that took place.
Do you think he's telling the truth or that it's just another lie?
Image via Andy Palmer/YouTube