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Controversial Mandela signer admitted to psychiatric hospital

Thamsanqa Jantjie had sparked outrage over his sign language work at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, right, interprets in sign language for President Barack Obama
Thamsanqa Jantjie, right, interprets in sign language for President Barack Obama
Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

THE SIGN LANGUAGE interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial, who claimed schizophrenia after being accused of being a fraud, has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, South African media reported Thursday.

Thamsanqa Jantjie sparked outrage for his translations of eulogies, including by US President Barack Obama and Mandela’s grandchildren, at the service last week, with sign language experts saying his signing 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 to 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 next 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 then reported that he had been part of a mob that burnt two people to death 10 years ago – allegations that he has dismissed – 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.

Read: ‘Fake’ deaf interpreter at Mandela memorial says he had ‘schizophrenic episode’>

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