December 12th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

Ridiculed Mandela Memorial Interpreter: 'I'm A Champion of Sign Language'

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

Thamsanqa Jantjie said Thursday that he is a fully qualified interpreter and has been trusted in the past with other big events.

"It has been many years I have been doing this job" he told CNN. "My portfolio shows that I have been a champion of what I have been doing."

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

There were complaints last year after Jantjie interpreted the proceedings at the ruling African National Congress elective conference, the institute's chairman, Johan Blaauw, told the South African Press Association.

But Jantjie stands by his work. "I have never in my life had anything that said I have interpreted wrong," he said.

"For the deaf association, if they think that I have done a wrong interpretation, I ask forgiveness. For Deaf SA, if they are telling me that I was doing a wrong interpretation, then they should answer me why they were silent all the time, all these years," he said, referring to the Deaf Federation of South Africa, which has criticized his work at the service.

Jantjie declined to provide details about his hire for the four-hour memorial, watched by millions around the world, as a government inquiry looks into the matter.

He said he had been drawn to the job of interpreting because he was disabled.

"I am suffering from schizophrenia, which is controllable. I am under treatment," Jantjie said.

At a news conference Thursday, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, South Africa's deputy minister of women, children and people with disabilities, admitted that mistakes had happened at the memorial service but added that Jantjie was not a "fake."

She said there was no sign language standard in South Africa and deaf people spoke different dialects.

She added that the government was looking into the vetting of Jantjie's security clearance at the memorial.

"But normally when you do provide a service at a particular level, you will be vetted. And as you could see, he had his accreditation, so he didn't just walk through," she said.

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  1. South Africa

    Now you know what we have to live with everyday, Hey but Viva la Raca!

    December 13, 2013 at 2:31 am | Reply
  2. Zee Rand

    What I cannot understand is how Congress can cut food stamps but allow farm subsidies. I guess it is the same for the Food stamps fraud prosecutions compared to the farm subsidies overpayments prosecutions. They both are government provided benefits. The distinction that comes to my mind is one is for the poor and defenseless, Food stamps, and the other assists landowners/occupiers and people that grow food to sell or are paid not to grow food. I believe I read an article where some of the members of Congress and other well to do people and business receive farm subsidies. Yet Congress is attacking Food Stamps to the poor or near poor.
    I don’t understand why some progressive some progressive commentator hasn’t made the comparison of how much money is doled out of the government coffers to farmers, big business, and Congressmen, compared to poor folks receiving food stamps. Along that vein, I have yet to read a comparison of the number of farm subsidy prosecutions compared to food stamp prosecutions. I think we need figures.
    From my perspective the only distinction in my mind is that people associate Food stamps with people of color, but Farm subsidies go to the white farmers. I think, People tend to think that poor white farmer is struggling so let’s help, but that person of color on food stamps is lazy and doesn’t deserve it.
    That is completely wrong, I was a single mom and barely making enough to keep a roof the lights on, and let me tell you those foods stamps helped a lot. I, like the farmer, was struggling to make it. To keep a roof over our head only, I didn’t have a farm to put food on the table, I didn’t have land to draw a loan from, I didn’t have the support of a society who looked supportively at my struggle.
    Is there a Public Administrator out there who can quantify and compare how much those farm subsidies result in per farm family member on average as opposed to how much per family in food stamps receiving households. And again I go back to the prosecutions. How much have we recovered in the farm subsidy overpayments that went to jail over them compared to families receiving food stamps but making slightly more that regulations require.
    IF we are going to discuss food stamps we need to include in the discussion farm subsidies.

    December 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Reply

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