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The South African sign language interpreter accused of using “fake” signs at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service this week said he suffered a schizophrenic episode at the event during which he hallucinated and heard voices.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, in an interview with Johannesburg’s Star newspaper, said he’s not a fraud.

“There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation,” Jantjie said. “I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry, it’s the situation I found myself in.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Jantjie said that while he was on stage at the FNB Stadium he saw visions of angels. He also told the AP that he has previously been violent and was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than a year.

Jantjie’s admissions are now raising security questions for South African authorities.

“Life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn’t understand this illness will think that I’m just making this up,” he said.

Sign language experts claimed Jantjie’s interpretations were “gibberish”. Just random movements, and nothing else.

“He wasn’t even doing anything, There was not one sign there. Nothing. He was literally flapping his arms around,” Cara Loening, director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town, told the Agence France-Presse news service.

Jantjie’s said he didn’t excuse himself from the ceremony because of the magnitude and seriousness of the ceremony.

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  • Starla

    But can they verify that he is certified as a sign language interpreter? There is nothing in the article to tell me he completed sign language studies at any level.

  • eevee

    This story is just so weird… where to even begin.

  • On Inside Edition they had video of him at another event, also signing nonsense. It would be very easy to verify his claims. Does he in fact know sign language? I’m sure there’s a test he can take. And he could give the media copies of his medical records to prove that he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

  • The Other Jess

    So what if he has schizophrenia? Having a medical condition while on your job, as long as it’s being treated, shouldn’t be held against anyone. I’m sure I work with people everyday who have diabetes, depression, mental illnesses, high blood pressure and a myriad of other illnesses. They are handling it while also going to work everyday. This man shouldn’t be harassed simply because he has a condition.

    On the other hand, he should be held to a high standard of having the actual training and knowledge to be a qualified sign-language interpreter. If he doesn’t have the necessary skills training, then the criticism is legit. Otherwise, his medical condition is a moot point. Anyone can have a relapse or come out of remission. If this is the case with him, he should be given the necessary treatment so he can get back to the task of being a sign language interpreter as he has been for years, and everybody should just leave him alone.