Thamsanqa Jantjie, the sign language interpreter who was hired to sign at Nelson Mandela’s memorial, says he was actually suffering a schizophrenic episode during the event and was trying his best not to let on, which took a toll on his signing. Claiming he saw angels floating into the stadium, Jantjie says he had to work to keep calm because he has a violent past, and there were armed guards surrounding him.
“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…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.
Jantjie was accused earlier this week of being a fake by several sign language experts, but South African cabinet minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu says he had credentials.
“I don’t think he was just picked up on the street. He went to a school for the deaf,” she said.
The company that hired Jantjie, SA Interpreters, is nowhere to be found; according to Gawker, South African officials and members of the Associated Press visited the address listed for the company, only to find a different business there.
Jantjie says he was scheduled to see a doctor on the day of the memorial service, but it is not known whether he’s sought help or changed his medication since the event.
Image: Wikimedia Commons