Dec. 12 - The South African sign language interpreter accused of miming nonsense during Nelson Mandela's memorial said he suffered a schizophrenic episode during the event. Mana Rabiee reports.
That's South African sign language interpreter Thamasanqa Jantjie. He's caused a global stir by signing jiberish during Nelson Mandela's memorial service as the world watched. On Thursday, the 34-year-old told various South African media he's currently being treated for schizophrenia and that he had a psychotic episode while on stage, hearing voices and hallucinating. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SING LANGUAGE INTERPRETER, THAMSANQA JANTJIE, SAYING: "I was faced with a very, very difficult situation under my medical condition, which my life was on danger because you know it was the security, it was very tight and then I have come to a point where I feel that now I am sick." The government's played down security concerns that Jantjie shared the podium with world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama. South Africa's minister for people with disabilities. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SOUTH AFRICAN DEPUTY MINISTER OF WOMEN, CHILDREN AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, HENDRIETTA BOGOPANE-ZULU, SAYING: "Did a mistake happen? Yes. He became overwhelmed, he did not use the normal signs. We accept all that." Jantjie calls himself a, quote, "champion" signer, and defends his performance at the memorial. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SING LANGUAGE INTERPRETER, THAMSANQA JANTJIE, SAYING: "I've got kids I've got family, they might say I am mad, but I am a man, I am provider, I am neighbor, I am a friend, then you can call me fake, after that." The episode cast a shadow on over South Africa's ten-day-long farewell to its first black president, who died a week ago at age 95.