Government admits to making a mistake by allowing "fake" interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie to provide his service during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday at FNB stadium in the south of Johannesburg.
Briefing media at the SABC in Auckland Park, Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu says the country is not embarrassed Jantjie’s questionable services.
“I would not say the country is embarrassed… they might have been a mistake where other people misunderstood the interpreter but I don’t think he comes from the streets. He comes from a school for the deaf,” says Bogopane-Zulu.
The government admitted that while Jantjie could use sign language with his peers he is not a professional sign language interpreter.
“Did a mistake happen? Yes, he became overwhelmed and did not use the normal signs. We accept a mistake happened. We try every day to improve. In the process and in the speed of the event a mistake happened,” says explains Bogopane-Zulu.
For you to be able to interpret you must understand the language that’s being spoken at the podium, he is Xhosa speaking as his first language, the English was a bit too much for him.
The deputy minister also pointed to Jantie’s limited understanding of English as another issue that might have added to his bizarre interpreting.
“For you to be able to interpret you must understand the language that’s being spoken at the podium. He is Xhosa speaking as his first language, the English was a bit too much for him. So yes he could not translate from English to sign language,” says Bogopane-Zulu.
Bogopane-Zulu says the government has tracked down the company responsible for offering Jantjie’s services but the owners have since vanished.
“They have vanished into thin air, it’s a clear indication that they’ve been providing sub-standard sign language interpreting services to many of their clients and nobody has picked it up. We are grateful we’ve managed to pick that up during Madiba’s memorial,” she says.
The government added that Janjie’s company ‘South African Interpreters’ has been in existence for a while and has been cheating people all along.
“The services of a language interpreter are between R1 300 and R1700 an hour but he charged R800 a day. So it’s somebody that does not know anything about sign language,” says Bogopane-Zulu.