Fake sign language interpreter claims mental illness - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Fake sign language interpreter at Mandela ceremony claims mental illness

PRETORIA, South Africa -

The man who pretended to interpret the presentations at former South African president Nelson Mandela's memorial service has come forward to admit he is schizophrenic. 

Amid widespread outrage in the deaf community, and an investigation by the South African government, Thamsanga Diyantshi has said that he suffers from schizophrenia and that it has made him violent in the past. 

"I have been doing sign language all these years," Diyantshi said. "And it was not even questioned."

It happened as the world listened to President Obama and other world leaders eulogize Nelson Mandela.

Deaf and hearing impaired South Africans were watching Diyantshi and, they say, understanding nothing. Professionals here who've reviewed his work say he is a complete fraud.

"I couldn't bear to watch what he would create out of it. Zero percent accuracy, really," said Delphin Hlungwane, a member of Deaf South Africa.

A spokesperson for the South African government admitted today that "a huge mistake" had been made.  The investigation is ongoing in a nation still wracked with grief at the loss of Mandela. 

"This should never happen again anywhere in the world, with any world leader. If there needs to be someone signing next to the world leaders, it should be a video," said James Cavanaugh, NBC security analyst.

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