‘Fake’ sign language a rights violation

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iol news pic Mandela deaf outrage


The deaf community is angry over the sign language interpreter used at the Nelson Mandela memorial.

Johannesburg - A language rights violation has been registered with the Pan SA Language Board (PanSALB) after the use of incorrect sign language at the memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela.

The board was concerned that the incorrect sign language displayed not only harmed those living with a disability, but also embarrassed and disrespected the proceedings, PanSALB CEO Mxolisi Zwane said on Thursday.

Mandela had fought for the freedom of language rights and had prevented the marginalisation of one community by others on the basis of language, he said.

The interpreter, Thamsanqa Jantjie, was metres away from the likes of President Jacob Zuma, US President Barack Obama, Cuban President Raul Castro, and Graca Machel during proceedings at Mandela's memorial at FNB Stadium, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.

“Investigations are currently underway and a comprehensive report will be communicated to the general public once the process is completed,” said Zwane.

PanSALB believed the use of incorrect sign language was misleading and disrespectful, and that strong measures were required against those involved. It called on the government to fast-track the signing of the SA Language Practitioner’s Council Bill into law to ensure language facilitation services were regulated, and that whoever rendered the service was competent.

“We are so happy that a complaint has immediately been launched not only to us, but also to government to ensure that deaf people, who have been disrespected during the proceedings, are afforded the respect they deserve,” said Zwane.

PanSALB had fought hard to ensure official languages, SA sign language, and Khoe, San, and Nama languages were recognised and treated fairly, equitably and with respect, he said.


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