Memorial sign language man ‘a fake’

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

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

Published Dec 11, 2013


* This story has been updated.

The deaf community is angry over what they say was a fake sign language interpreter used at former president Nelson Mandela's memorial, according to reports.

According to various online reports, the sign language interpreter used at the memorial at FNB Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday may have been unqualified.

Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African citizen and board member of the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section (WDF), was quoted as saying : “The structure of his hand, facial expressions and the body movements did not follow what the speaker was saying.

“I was really upset and humiliated by the mystery interpreter who was supposed to be signing what Barack Obama, the president of United States of America was saying... He made up his own signs.”

"He is a complete and utter fraud," Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town director Cara Loening told Sapa on Wednesday.

"If he values his life he must come clean because the deaf community throughout the world are outraged."

She said not one of his signs had anything to do with sign language.


"It was like getting somebody off the street and telling them to flap their hands around," said Loening.

"This man made a mockery of the service. How disrespectful for what Madiba stood for."

Some members of the deaf community reportedly took to Twitter to express outrage.

Wilma Newhoudt, a deaf member of the South African Parliament and Vice President of the World Federation of the Deaf, labelled the signing as “shameful”, a report said.

@FrancoisDeysel on Tuesday tweeted: "please can someone ask the interpreter to step down from stage, it is embarrassing and making a mockery of our profession".

Government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said she was unable to respond to the allegations immediately, as she did not know which department procured the service provider. She said she did not know about his qualifications or expertise.

"I can try and find out."

Later when Sapa called back for an update, another person answered Williams's phone, referring all queries to the media desk.

Another government spokeswoman Manusha Pillai said it was the first time they had heard of it.

"We need time to get to the bottom of this."

According to EWN, Deaf SA said it was in the process of preparing a statement about the “fake interpreter”. - IOL, Sapa

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