Interpreter at Mandela Funeral Tied to Deadly 2003 Mob Attack
President Barack Obama looks down as he stands next to the sign language interpreter as he makes his speech at the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. South Africa’s deaf federation said on Wednesday that the interpreter on stage for Mandela memorial was a ‘fake’, (AP /Matt Dunham)
Thamsanqa Jantjie, the interpreter at Mandela’s funeral, was part of a mob in 2003 that burned two men to death for stealing.
The New York Times reported:
The man who provided incomprehensible sign language interpretation during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service last week was part of a mob that burned two men to death in 2003, according to news reports that quoted the interpreter, some of his friends and a relative.
The man, Thamsanqa Jantjie, was quoted in The Sunday Times of Johannesburg as saying, “It was a community thing, what you call mob justice, and I was also there.”
The Associated Press reported on Monday that one of Mr. Jantjie’s relatives and three friends said he was part of a group that attacked and killed two men who had stolen a television. Mr. Jantjie did not go to trial because he was found mentally unfit, the friends and relative told The A.P.
Reached by telephone on Monday, however, Mr. Jantjie denied the reports of his murder charges, saying, “It is nonsense.”
The tale of Mr. Jantjie, which has grown increasingly bizarre since advocates for the deaf criticized his signing at the memorial as gibberish, has been deeply embarrassing for the government, which was working to give Mr. Mandela, the father of the country’s democracy, a pitch-perfect send-off. Mr. Mandela was buried on Sunday in his home village of Qunu after an eloquent and emotional ceremony.