Sign language expert blames illness for memorial mess-up

THE Man at the centre of a controversy over "fake" sign language at the Nelson Mandela memorial has blamed a schizophrenic episode for the  failure.

Thamsanqa Jantjie created a social network storm as the memorial was televised, with the deaf community calling for him to be removed from the stage.

There were claims he was doing little more than flapping his arms as world leaders spoke.

Mr Jantjie yesterday told South Africa's The Star newspaper he suffered a schizophrenic episode while on stage and suddenly lost concentration while hearing voices and hallucinating.

"There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation," he told The Star. "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."

Mr Jantjie, who claimed he was "medically boarded" several years ago because of his condition, said he was hired for the job by SA Interpreters and paid 850 rand (A$90).

The South African Translators' Institute earlier said it already had reservations about the interpreter, who has previously signed at the ruling ANC party's events, including its centenary anniversary last year.

"We suspect there was something underhand about him," chairman Johan Blaauw told the domestic SAPA news agency.

Since the memorial, a YouTube video of the signing, with a spoof translation, has become an international hit.

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