|Thamsanqa Jantjie (AP-Yonhap News)|
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) ― The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial, who said he had suffered a schizophrenic episode during the service after being labeled a fraud, has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, South African media reported Thursday.
Thamsanqa Jantjie’s performance at last week’s event sparked outrage, with sign language experts saying his translations of the eulogies ― including those by U.S. President Barack Obama and Mandela’s grandchildren ― amounted to little more than “flapping his arms around” and “just making funny gestures.”
On Thursday the Star newspaper said Jantjie’s wife Siziwe had taken her husband for a check-up at a psychiatric hospital near Johannesburg on Tuesday, which suggested that he be admitted immediately.
“The past few days have been hard. We have been supportive because he might have had a breakdown,” she was quoted as saying.
Jantjie had been scheduled for a check-up at the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, on Dec. 10.
But the appointment was moved after he was offered the job to sign at the Mandela memorial which took place the same day, the newspaper reported.
Jantjie has claimed that he is a qualified signer for the deaf but that his performance was down to a sudden attack of schizophrenia, for which he takes medication.
“I saw angels falling on the stadium. I heard voices and lost concentration,” he has said.
Local media have since reported that he was part of a mob that burnt two people to death 10 years ago ― allegations he has denied ― and that he had also allegedly faced rape, kidnapping and theft charges.
Mandela’s memorial was attended by nearly 100 sitting and former heads of state or government.
The South African government has admitted a “mistake” had been made as it launched an investigation into the scandal. It has also apologized to the deaf community for any offence it may have caused.
In recent media interviews, Jantjie has come across as incoherent.
Last week he shouted at an AFP reporter, initially referring to her as “good” then suddenly accusing her of being “evil” and a “demon”.
In his home province of Free State, local media have claimed Jantjie has impersonated a lawyer and a traditional healer, though he has not commented on those allegations.
The revelations that the signer may have been mentally unstable, has raised questions about how Jantjie, who was at one point little more than an arm’s length away from Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was vetted and received security clearance.
Pretoria said none of the service providers at the event had had their health status checked.
The African National Congress has admitted that Jantjie previously did work for the country’s ruling party, signing at one of its conferences, but that it was unaware of any complaints regarding the quality of services.
The ANC is also probing claims that some of its officials were directors of the company for which the signer worked.