JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The bogus sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela‘s memorial said Tuesday he had translated for years at big events for the South African ruling party and government, which is investigating how a self-described schizophrenic said to have been involved in mob killings got such a sensitive job in which he stood close to U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders.
Thamsanqa Jantjie also told The Associated Press that he was undergoing a medical examination Tuesday at the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital west of Johannesburg. The hospital declined to confirm that he was there, saying it cannot divulge information about patients.
A cousin and three friends of Jantjie have said he was part of a mob that accosted two men found with a stolen television and burned them to death by setting fire to tires placed around their necks in 2003. They said he never went to trial for the 2003 killings when other suspects did because authorities determined he was not mentally fit to stand trial.
Jantjie has said he has schizophrenia and hallucinated during the Dec. 10 stadium memorial for Mandela, in which he made arm and hand movements that experts said were gibberish. Mandela died Dec. 5 at age 95, and the memorial was part of an extended mourning period for the anti-apartheid leader and former president.
On Tuesday, Jantjie told the AP in a telephone interview that he had been hired by a company called South African Interpreters, which had used him on a freelance basis for years.
“Everyone knows I am an interpreter. I’ve been interpreting for years, at big events, even for the government and the ANC,” he said. The African National Congress was the liberation movement during the fight against white rule in South Africa, and has dominated politics since Mandela became president in the first all-race elections in 1994.
Jantjie said he had records to prove that South African Interpreters had hired him, and said the wife of company owner, Bantubahle Xozwa, had accredited him for the Mandela memorial.
The Sunday Times, a South African newspaper, quoted Xozwa, who is also the head of a religious and traditional affairs agency of the ANC, as saying Jantjie had interpreted at the memorial in his personal capacity.
Xozwa told the newspaper that Jantjie was an administrator in his company but was not an interpreter because he was “was disqualified years ago on the basis of his health.”
The AP was unable to reach Xozwa for comment on Tuesday.
South African government officials have not said how long the investigation into Jantjie, and whether he received security clearance, will take.
The ANC has said it had no role in hiring Jantjie for the memorial, but has acknowledged using him at events in the past.
Four government departments involved in organizing the memorial service have also distanced themselves from Jantjie, telling the AP they had no contact with him. A fifth government agency, the Department of Public Works, declined to comment and referred all inquiries about Jantjie to the office of South Africa’s top government spokeswoman, who has only said a “comprehensive report” will eventually be released.
Jantjie has admitted to a history of mental problems and “violent episodes” in the past and that he had been a patient in a psychiatric institution for more than a year. He was discharged and started working after being medicated and monitored by doctors.
After the memorial at FNB Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday, Jantjie told various media outlets he had suffered a schizophrenic episode in which he had seen angels, and that he had panicked when he realized he was surrounded by armed police.
30 Best Nelson Mandela Quotes
1. "It always seems impossible until it is done. "-Nelson Mandela1 of 30
2. "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination." -Nelson Mandela2 of 30
3. "Any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose." -Nelson Mandela3 of 30
4. "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." -Nelson Mandela4 of 30
5. "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." -Nelson Mandela5 of 30
6. "Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mind cannot be separated." -Nelson Mandela6 of 30
7. "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children." -Nelson Mandela7 of 30
8. "In my country we go to prison first and then become President." -Nelson Mandela8 of 30
9. "Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement." -Nelson Mandela9 of 30
10. "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." -Nelson Mandela10 of 30
11. "I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances."-Nelson Mandela11 of 30
12. "If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness & Forgiveness."-Nelson Mandela12 of 30
13. "Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all."- Nelson Mandela13 of 30
14. "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."-Nelson Mandela14 of 30
15. "I have retired, but if there's anything that would kill me is to wake up in the morning not knowing what to do. "-Nelson Mandela15 of 30
16. "I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people."-Nelson Mandela16 of 30
17. "Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another."-Nelson Mandela17 of 30
18. "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."-Nelson Mandela18 of 30
19. "Give a child love, laughter and peace, not AIDS."-Nelson Mandela19 of 30
20. "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."-Nelson Mandela20 of 30
21. "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities."-Nelson Mandela21 of 30
22. "I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses."-Nelson Mandela22 of 30
23. "I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself."-Nelson Mandela23 of 30
24. "We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right."-Nelson Mandela24 of 30
25. "I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man."-Nelson Mandela25 of 30
26. "There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."-Nelson Mandela26 of 30
27. "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."- Nelson Mandela27 of 30
28. "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. "-Nelson Mandela28 of 30
29. "Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future."-Nelson Mandela29 of 30
30. "Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace. "-Nelson Mandela30 of 30