The schizophrenic sign language “interpreter” who spent hours within easy attack range of President Obama and other world leaders at Nelson Mandela’s funeral last week was once part of a mob that burned two men to death for stealing televisions, but was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.
The latest revelations about interpreter impersonator Thamsanqa Jantjie show Jantjie steeped in the street violence of parts of South Africa, where life was as cheap as the price of an old tire and enough gasoline to set it on fire.
“It was a community thing, what you call mob justice, and I was also there,” Jantjie told Sunday Times of Johannesburg, according to the Associated Press.
After the fatal burnings in 2003, Jantjie was placed in a mental institution for more than a year, according to the AP.
When he returned to his poverty-stricken Soweto neighborhood outside Johannesburg, he landed jobs working as a sign language interpreter, though his qualifications appear to be non-existent and the company he contracts for has disappeared.
Jantjie claims to have attended a school called Komania in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, but the Associated Press was unable to locate such a school and advocates for the deaf told the news service the province as no sign language school.
Jantjie reportedly also claims to have studied sign language in Britain at a place called the “University of Tecturers,” though no such place apparently exists.
What makes this all so noteworthy isn’t so much Jantjie’s participation in brutal street killings, since as the AP story notes, such incidents were “fairly common during the struggle against apartheid.” Savagery in the streets of Soweto isn’t necessarily the automatic job disqualifer it would be in a more civilized country.
What makes this truly frightening is a self-confessed schizophrenic with a violent past – including taking part in the burned-alive murders of two human beings – spent virtually an entire day in the vicinity of an American president, at the funeral of one of the most famous men in the world.
If anything had gone truly wrong – if the “angels” Jantjie told authorities he saw had commanded him to turn violent on Barack Obama, for instance – the conspiracy theories would make the “Magic Bullet” theory look simple.
The Wester World would just have to hope the Danish prime minister wasn’t in on it, too.
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