The South African sign language interpreter accused of using “fake” signs at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service this week said he suffered a schizophrenic episode at the event during which he hallucinated and heard voices.
Thamsanqa Jantjie, in an interview with Johannesburg’s Star newspaper, said he’s not a fraud.
“There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation,” Jantjie said. “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.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Jantjie said that while he was on stage at the FNB Stadium he saw visions of angels. He also told the AP that he has previously been violent and was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than a year.
Jantjie’s admissions are now raising security questions for South African authorities.
“Life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn’t understand this illness will think that I’m just making this up,” he said.
Sign language experts claimed Jantjie’s interpretations were “gibberish”. Just random movements, and nothing else.
“He wasn’t even doing anything, There was not one sign there. Nothing. He was literally flapping his arms around,” Cara Loening, director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town, told the Agence France-Presse news service.
Jantjie’s said he didn’t excuse himself from the ceremony because of the magnitude and seriousness of the ceremony.