Thamsanqa Jantjie, the man who made fake sign language at Nelson Mandela's memorial service next to world leaders (including President Obama), told The Associated Press he saw angels coming into the stadium and was trying not to panic because there were "armed policemen around me." 

Condemnation from sign language experts has been universal. "It was like getting somebody off the street and telling them to flap their hands around," said Cara Loening, director of Cape Town-based Sign Language Education and Development. Apparently, that's close to what happened. Jantjie's references were faked.

Imagine this guy, standing up there all day long, making random gestures with his hands, and keeping a mock serious expression on his face. What did he think was going to happen? Did he think nobody would figure it out? Did he think he'd be paid no matter what and thus not care?

I don't know if I should laugh at the absurdity or admire the diabolical genius. I suppose I should wait and see if the guy ends up doing any time in jail.

Tags: Mandela, Nelson, fake, language, sign

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What bothers me most is why no news agency, government person or other are not calling him out for the racist he is. Mocking us deaf in this way is another form of racism, he may not realise it, and I am sure many hearing do not see it but it what it is.

I hadn't considered the discriminatory aspects (at least not quite in the same way) and it seems important that you've pointed this out so plainly.

What troubled me is that Jantjie had been doing this for two years and perhaps longer. After he appeared at an event in January 2012, the Deaf Federation of South Africa issued a formal letter of complaint to the ANC. They described Jantjie's signing as a "mockery" and said "100 percent of the information was omitted".

Not only did the ANC continue to use Jantjie, and not only did the deaf community continue to express frustration to the ANC, once Jantjie had been exposed, the ANC claimed they never knew anything about it.

So, as a stunned media corp descended on the ANC, and operation "cover your ass" began, I started wondering how much the factor of being deaf came into play here.

If these had been Spanish speakers saying what-the-fuck the guy is a fake, and telling them Jantjie can't speak a word of Spanish, would they still have gotten the brush-off? Would Jantjie have remained so above suspicion as to get a job translating Spanish at a major event, no questions asked?

While you're mulling over the nuances of discrimination against the hearing impaired, take a look at this sample "translation" of a speech by Jantjie. I found it rather enlightening.


"Deputy president of the ANC and officials of the African National Congress , National Executive Committee of the African National Congress, ANC women league , Youth League (crowd scream and applaud) African National Congress leadership of MK military . Leadership from SACP, SATU and SANCO.

Friends from all over Africa and the world, comrades and compatriots, the ANC is the oldest liberation movement on the African continent is 100 years old today. We have come from all corners of South Africa , Africa and the World."

The sign language Jantjie was using on stage to convey Zuma's words (some of his corresponding hand movements are in brackets) as translated by someone who actually knows sign language:

"All heart (ten hand move forward) which had no meaning, together (hand move back to the heart) then the sign for C is used. The hands go down to side and then point left with his right hand (no meaning) sign for beg is used repeatedly and the sign is placed on different levels in front of torso with a rocking movement. Both hands in claw shape in the air with movement with no meaning , then again the sign for beg, tree and the help sign and then the hands go forward indicating future." [The interpreter did not use facial expressions, a crucial part of any form of sign language.]

When I look at it it seems to be made of the same hand signs in series....

I would have been none the wiser otherwise.

He looked like he wasn't even paying attention. It's an insult to deaf people and to the memory of Mandela. He had to know he would be noticed. I can't fathom his motive. I do hope he is held responsible.

I was very nervous about the concentration of world leaders at the funeral, from a security stand-point. What a juicy target for terrorists, anarchists, or other giant assholes. Turns out the security isn't good enough to keep someone who is either a con-artist or a severely deluded man off of the stage. That is disturbing! Step it up people. We do not need a bunch of dead world leaders because someone was asleep at their job instead of doing background checks. Who else shouldn't have been there?

Much of the time he was the closest person to the world leaders at the podium. I would assume he was checked for lethal weapons before being allowed up there.

Apparently, he's been doing this for years, which raises the issue of whether signing is something that's so rare in SA that nobody clued the government in?


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