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I have schizophrenia, says Mandela memorial signer

Staff Reporter

Thamsanqa Jantjies, the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's FNB Stadium memorial, has revealed that he suffers from schizophrenia.

Sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjies at the Nelson Mandela memorial on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Thamsanqa Jantjie was unapologetic about his sign language interpreting at Nelson Mandela's memorial at FNB Stadium in an interview with Talk Radio 702 on Thursday.

Jantjie also revealed that although he was not comfortable talking about his medical status in public, he is receiving treatment for schizophrenia.

The sign language interpreter who stood next to the podium and interpreted what heads of states, religious leaders and other celebrated figures had to say about Nelson Mandela at his memorial service on Tuesday was accused by the deaf community in South Africa of using incorrect signs.

When asked how he felt about being the centre of questioning about his interpreting skills, Jantjie said: "It is very sad at this present moment because I believe that it was an issue that had to be dealt with earlier. If the Deaf Federation of South Africa​ have an issue with my interpreting they should have clarified it a long time ago, not at this crucial time for our country."

When asked whether Jantjie​ was happy with his performance during the memorial, he said "absolutely", stating that no one had ever queried his abilities before.

"If I interpreted wrong, why is it an issue now? Why wasn't it an issue when I was doing interpretation at MaSisulu's [Albertina Sisulu] funeral and many big events in South Africa?"

Jantjie​ stated that he was hired by a company called "Interpreters SA", where he is a senior interpreter.

Jantjie said that he has a formal qualification in deaf sign language interpreting and that anybody wishing to see his qualification should approach Interpreters SA.

The Mail & Guardian could not find any details for Interpreters SA at this time.

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