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Deaf Community outraged by interpreter

By Olivia Wilmsen, Multimedia Journalist, olivia.wilmsen@krdo.com
Published On: Dec 12 2013 11:50:58 PM CST

The South African interpreter accused of faking signs at Nelson Mandela's memorial is blaming schizophrenia. That has the deaf community outraged.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

The deaf community is outraged by the South African interpreter accused of faking signs at Nelson Mandela’s memorial.

Thamsanqa Jantjie is blaming schizophrenia for his actions. He said he was hallucinating while signing, saying he was seeing angels. People wonder why he was even allowed to interpret such an important event.

Sign Language Network is a Colorado Springs company that provides interpreters for all sorts of events and places. They said the whole thing was a travesty.

“He keeps signing the same thing,” said Andrea Reeves, owner of Sign Language Network while watching the interpreter at Mandela’s memorial.

“None of it was making sense,” she said.

“You couldn’t pick up any of it,” said deaf interpreter Billy Allen.

Jantjie admitted he was distracted while signing in front of foreign dignitaries and millions watching at home.

“I’m suffering from a very difficult illness. The illness that you are not in position of understanding yourself at times,” said Jantjie.

Reeves has an extensive background in American sign language and a company to boot.

“Each country has its own sign language,” said Reeves.

She couldn’t believe her eyes watching Mandela’s memorial.

“I would’ve expected to see some facial grammar that matched the emotions of the speaker and there was nothing on the face,” said Reeves.

She wasn’t the only one who saw problems.

“His sign gestures didn’t seem like they had any meaning,” said interpreter Allen.

The outcry on social media was huge. Allen was appalled.

“The signing thing kind of diminished the integrity of the entire program,” said Allen.

Many are questioning how Jantjie earned the job.

“I was shocked that there weren’t extensive background checks on the company and the individual,” said Reeves.

It’s even harder to comprehend how something like this could happen given the importance of Mandela’s memorial.

“Feels like we took a step back,” said Allen.

“The entire South African Deaf Community missed out on a major event in life. It’s a travesty,” said Reeves.

The South African government is looking into the vetting of Jantjie’s security clearance at the memorial.

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