The use of a sign language interpreter who got within three feet of world leaders including President Barack Obama during Nelson Mandela’s memorial was being investigated Thursday after organizers admitted they were unaware of his violent history of schizophrenic episodes.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, 34, was accused of gesticulating gibberish during Tuesday’s memorial service.   Members of the deaf community said his movements did not resemble any recognized form of sign language and some groups accused him of being a “fake.”

Jantjie told a local newspaper he started hearing voices in his head and was hallucinating while at the Mandela event, resulting in gestures that made absolutely no sense and outraged deaf people around the world.

This same sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie stated that he saw “angels” during a possible schizophrenic episode while appearing at the Nelson Mandela memorial and said he had been violent in the past.

The South African government on Thursday admitted that “a mistake was made.”

Jantjie said he was happy with his performance — describing himself as a “champion of sign language.”  “There was nothing I could do,” he told a local newspaper, “I was alone in a very dangerous situation.  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.”  He said he tried not to panic on Tuesday because there were “armed policemen around me.”  When questioned about how often he becomes violent, he said “a lot,” but he declined to provide details.

The South African government said at a press conference Thursday that officials were “trying to establish what happened with the sign language interpreter.”

The South African deputy minister for women, children and persons with disability, said that the government was investigating the whether the interpreter had been investigated and cleared before the memorial.

A spokesman for the ruling National African Congress party, stated that he was upset  that Jantjie’s qualifications or medical history had apparently not been taken into account before he was given close access to world leaders at the government-organized event.

“We are not aware that he was being treated for schizophrenia.  He did not disclose it. That is another thing that is concerning to use because we are having this information for the first time.”  “This man was close to many presidents, including our own.  We are worried about when we have procured him for activities for our own services.  That is what we are concerned about.”

“There should not be a person there if that person is not completely investigated and cleared and they know exactly who they are,” said a retired special agent-in-charge for  the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  “There are too many terrorists in that region of the world to take even the slightest chance to have a person that’s not really known that close to world leaders.”

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan added that “agreed-upon security measures between the U.S. Secret Service and South African government security officials were in place” during the service.

A White House spokesman played down the incident.  “It’s a shame that … a service that was dedicated to honoring the life and celebrating the legacy of one of the great leaders of the 20th century has gotten distracted by this and a couple of other issues that are far less important than the legacy of Nelson Mandela.”

My only concern is that if this guy can get that close to the President and other world leaders and he is not fully checked out and verified, then our Secret Service and South African officials have egg on their face and should be investigated; because someone obviously dropped the ball.  This is a glaring example of the poor security that you see in most third world countries and the kind of unorganized leadership that Mandela left in South Africa.  But why should we be surprised when we have the same level of incompetence, in our officials, in this country.

 

 

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