Mandela memorial sign language interpreter a ‘fraud’
The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial was accused Wednesday of being a fake who merely flapped his arms around during speeches.
“He’s a complete fraud,” Cara Loening, director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town told AFP.
“He wasn’t even doing anything, There was not one sign there. Nothing. He was literally flapping his arms around.”
The interpreter, who translated eulogies including those of US President Barack Obama and Mandela’s grandchildren, looked as if he was “trying to swat a few flies away from his face and his head”.
“The deaf community in South Africa are completely outraged and nobody knows who he is,” said Loening.
“We can’t find a name or anything. The organisations who have accredited interpreters do not know him at all.”
The government said it had launched an investigation following the allegations, the results of which would be made public.
Minister Collins Chabane said at a news conference the government was “looking into this matter,” but would be unable to conclude its investigations on Wednesday due to other pressing demands ahead of Mandela’s funeral.
Attended by nearly 100 sitting and former heads of state, the speeches at Mandela’s memorial on Tuesday were supposed to be interpreted into sign language for deaf viewers.
The on-stage interpreter’s signing appeared at odds with that of the public broadcaster’s signer, who was shown on a small insert box on SABC television screens.
Delphin Hlungwane, a spokeswoman for the Deaf Federation of South Africa, said the man picked for the job was “just gesturing in the air”.
“He didn’t interpret at all, he had zero percent accuracy,” she said.
“International people were watching it as well and they all said he was not using any kind of sign language. They all said they don’t understand him,” said Hlungwane.
Loening said her organisation was getting mails from around the world “wondering what on earth this man was doing there”.
“It’s a real embarrassment. It’s complete disrespect for the deaf community and for what Nelson Mandela stood for and the support which he gave toward the deaf community.”