Thamsanqa Jantjie, the sign language interpreter accused of being ‘inept’ has defended his actions at the Nelson Mandela memorial service on Tuesday, saying that he is a proficient sign language interpreter but has schizophrenia and suffered an episode while on stage.
Mr Jantjie also claimed that he is a qualified interpreter for the ‘SA Interpreting’ agency and that his interpreting at many other events has been acceptable.
We reported today on a video from 2012 that shows Jantjie interpreting for President Jacob Zuma in a similar style to that which sparked controversy on Tuesday.
Explaining his actions, Jantjie, 34, this morning claimed that a schizophrenic episode caused him to lose concentration while on stage at the FNB football stadium in Soweto.
He started hearing voices, he claimed, and hallucinating.
“There was nothing I could do”, he said, “I was alone in a very dangerous situation. 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.”
Jantjie was interviewed by a local newspaper and this morning went on local radio to defend himself.
“Life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn’t understand this illness will think I’m just making this up.”
News of Jantjie’s mental illness may direct attention towards the organisers of the event, and a debate between SABC, the national broadcaster in South Africa, and the ANC over how the interpreter was allowed on stage and who was ultimately responsible.
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