A South African sign language interpreter accused of making up his own signs during a memorial to Nelson Mandela has revealed he may have suffered a schizophrenic episode on stage after claiming he saw ‘angels’ at the event.
Thamsanqa Jantjie, 34, who has been violent in the past and suffers from schizophrenia, said that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were ‘armed policemen around me.’
He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year.
Mr Jantjie, who stood gesticulating near President Obama and others who spoke at Tuesday’s ceremony that was broadcast around the world, insisted that he was doing proper sign-language interpretation of the speeches of world leaders.
He said he worked for a company called SA Interpreters which had been hired by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for Tuesday’s ceremony at Johannesburg’s 95,000-seat Soccer City stadium. He said he was paid 85 dollars (£52) for interpreting the event.
But he also apologized for his performance that has been dismissed by many sign-language experts as gibberish.
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