Outrage over fake interpreter

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Fake South African sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie standing next to U.S. President Barrack Obama at the Mandela memorial last week.

WINDHOEK – Namibian sign language interpreter Selma Moses-Sackaria who is also a senior producer at the Namibian Broadcasting Cooperation (NBC) has expressed dismay over the man condemned for “fake” sign language interpretation at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service last Tuesday.

Speaking to New Era last week on Thursday, Moses-Sackaria said at first she thought the man was using a more advanced international sign language but to her alarm he kept repeating the same signs and he was “incoherent”.

“It is not clear-cut for me to conclude so soon. Although there are similarities in our sign language with that of South Africa, the huge difference is how we sign as some signs stem from culture,” she explained

Moses-Sackaria says by tradition, as a Namibian interpreter she has a high regard for South African interpreters as they started the profession years ahead of Namibia.

“I was a bit perplexed to see the gentleman who just confidently repeated the same sentence throughout,” she said joining in the international chorus of condemnation of the interpreter.

Moses-Sackaria further says one could not really read much meaning into his bogus signing.

“But with investigations ongoing we all will have a clear perspective of reality,” she said.

The interpreter was identified by local media as 34-year-old Thamsanqa Jantjie, who told Johannesburg’s Star newspaper that he started “hearing voices” in his head and “hallucinating,” resulting in gestures that made no sense to outraged deaf people around the world.

“There was nothing I could do. 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,” he told the paper.

He did not know what triggered the attack and said he takes medication for his schizophrenia.

Millions of TV viewers across the globe saw Jantjie interpreting at the memorial attended by leaders from around the world including President Hifikepunye Pohamba who stood a few metres from him.

By Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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