Uhuru-Spirit News

SOUTH AFRICA FORMALLY APOLOGISES FOR MANDELA SIGNER

December 13, 2013 | UhuruSpirit

Thamsanqa Jantjie



The South African government formally apologised Friday for any offence caused by the sign language interpreter it hired for Nelson Mandela's memorial, later exposed as a fake.

"We sincerely apologise to the deaf community and to all South Africans for any offence that may have been suffered," Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said in a statement.

The country's junior minister for disabilities, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, admitted on Thursday the government had made a "mistake", but defended the interpreter.

Enraged sign language experts said that Thamsanqa Jantjie's signing in front of US President Barack Obama and other world leaders gathered at Soweto's Soccer City stadium had amounted to little more than "flapping his arms around".

Jantjie later blamed his behaviour on a schizophrenic attack.

Contacted by AFP by telephone on Friday, he refused to discuss the incident, saying he was too busy drafting an explanation to the government.

"Yesterday I explained to all the media...(and) today I am busy with the government that want my side of the story," he said.

Minister Mashatile said parliament would pass a new law early next year to regulate the profession "so that this kind of incident doesn't happen ever again."

Bogopane-Zulu said Thursday the interpreter was not fake, but may have had problems with English or was overworked and tired.

South Africa's deaf organisations, however, said this was not a one-off incident, claiming they had complained to the government about Jantjie before.

Meanwhile, a South Africa television news station, eNCA reported Friday that the interpreter has a string of criminal charges, including murder, laid against him.

The television news station reported that a murder, attempted murder and kidnapping case from 2003, against Thamsanqa Jantjie and two other men, was referred to the High Court in Johannesburg in 2004, and was finalised in November 2006.

However the outcome was unknown as the court file for the case was found empty by eNCA reporters.

Using court and police records, eNCA established that Jantjie was convicted of theft in 199, and is recorded to have received a three-year sentence.

He was charged with housebreaking in July 199-7 and malicious damage to property in April 1998.

Jantjie was charged with rape in September 1994, but was later acquitted.



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