Thamsanqa Jantjie gestures at his home during an interview with the Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday, (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
JOHANNESBURG — A South African deputy Cabinet minister says "a mistake happened" in the hiring of a sign language interpreter for the Nelson Mandela memorial service who experts say was signing gibberish on stage next to world leaders.
Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said Thursday that government officials have tried to track down the company that provided Thamsanqa Jantjie but that the cowners "have vanished into thin air." Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Bogopane-Zulu apologized to deaf people offended around the world by what they say was Jantjie's incomprehensible signing.
She says an investigation is under way to determine how Jantjie received a security clearance.———
JOHANNESBURG — The man accused of faking sign interpretation while standing alongside world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service said Thursday he saw "angels" at the event, has been violent in the past and suffers from schizophrenia.
Thamsanqa Jantjie said in a 45-minute interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were "armed policemen around me." He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year.
Jantjie, who stood gesticulating three-feet (1 meter) from Obama and others who spoke at Tuesday's ceremony that was broadcast around the world, insisted that he was doing proper sign-language interpretation of the speeches of world leaders.
But he also apologized for his performance that has been dismissed by many sign-language experts as gibberish.
The statements by Jantjie raise serious security issues for Obama, other heads of state and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who made speeches at FNB Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg's black township. The ceremony honored Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon and former president who died on Dec. 5.