Interpreter at Mandela memorial defends his work, says he has schizophrenia

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The sign language interpreter widely ridiculed for his performance at the Nelson Mandela memorial stands by his work.

Thamsanqa Jantjies told CNN affiliate Radio 702 in Johannesburg that he is a fully qualified interpreter and has been trusted in the past with other big events.

Jantjiesi also reluctantly admitted in the interview that he suffers from schizophrenia and is receiving treatment.

“I’ve interpreted in many press conferences, including the presidential conference,” he said. “There was no one at all that said I interpreted wrong.”

Not so, says the head of the South Africa Translators’ Institute.

There were complaints last year after Jantjies interpreted the proceedings at the ruling African National Conference elective conference, the institute’s chairman Johan Blaauw told the South African Press Association. South African President Jacob Zuma is the head of the ANC.

As outrage over his interpretation skills grew, so did questions over who hired him.

A spokesman for the ANC said the party had not hired him for the Mandela event Tuesday.

“We have used him on some occasions. But yesterday was not an ANC event. So we cannot answer for yesterday,” spokesman Jackson Mthembu said Wednesday.

The South African government was investigating the reports, said Collins Charbane, minister for performance monitoring and evaluation in the presidency.

Jantjies told Talk Radio 702 that he was hired by a company called SA Interpreters, which was hired by the ANC.


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