Mandela signer admitted to mental clinic

Sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial, accused of making up gestures, admitted to psychiatric hospital.

    Thamsanqa Jantjie said he had seen angels at Mandela's memorial that made him lose concentration [AFP]
    Thamsanqa Jantjie said he had seen angels at Mandela's memorial that made him lose concentration [AFP]

    The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial, who said he 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 sparked outrage with his performance at last week's event, with sign language 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".

    On Thursday 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 December 10.

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

    Jantjie has claimed that he is a qualified signer 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 faced rape, kidnapping and theft charges.

    Mandela's memorial was attended by nearly 100 sitting and former heads of state or government. The government apologised to the deaf community following the scandal.

    In recent media interviews, Jantjie has come across as incoherent.

    In his home province of Free State, local media have accused Jantjie of impersonating a lawyer and a traditional healer, though he has not commented on those claims.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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