The sign language interpreter branded a “fake” and a “fraud” for the unintelligible gestures he made during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service said he began “hearing voices and hallucinating” while on stage.
Thamsanqa Jantjie told the South African newspaper, The Star, Thursday that he suffers from, and takes medication for, schizophrenia and had an episode during the service.
According to the paper:
[Jantjie] doesn’t know whether it was the magnitude of what he was doing or the happiness he felt throughout the day that might have triggered the attack while on stage.
Suddenly he lost concentration, and started hearing voices and hallucinating.
Jantjie added that he stayed on the stage and continued to sign while he was “seeing things and hearing loud voices in his head.”
“There was nothing I could do,” he said. “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.”
Jantjie was seen signing for many world leaders during the service, including during President Obama’s speech.
His actions provoked outraged responses on social media around the world, with many calling for his immediate removal from the stage.
David Buxton from the British Deaf Association said the interpreter was “waving his hands around but there was no meaning.”
“Please get RID of this CLOWN interpreter, please!” Bruno Peter Druchen, National Director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa and chairman of the South African Disability Alliance, tweeted.
According to The Star, the South African government is investigating “who recommended [Jantjie] for the job.”
Read: Signing interpreter at Mandela service a fake; waving hands around with no meaning