Nelson Mandela Memorial Service: Deaf Signer Accused of Being a Fake

Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Soweto has been hit with the sort of controversy you wouldn’t expect to find at a ceremony as important and as internationally watched as Mandela’s send off in the FNB stadium. The translator who interpreted the words of speakers like Jacob Zuma, Desmond Tuto and Barack Obama has been accused of making up some of the signs.

The debacle has incensed the World Deaf Federation’s Braam Jordaan, himself a deaf South African who told press that “The structure of his hand, facial expressions and the body movements did not follow what the speaker was saying."

The interpreter who signed for a large part of the ceremony was apparently making it up as he went along. "I was really upset and humiliated,” Jordaan said. “He made up his own signs. What happened at the memorial service is truly disgraceful thing to see – it should not happen at all. What happened today will be forever aligned with Nelson Mandela and the deaf community, thanks to this fake interpreter."

When the accusation was put to the ANC a spokesman said: “I don't know this guy. He doesn't work for the ANC. It was a government event.” Later a government minister confirmed: “The government is looking in to the matter but has not been able to conclude this inquiry due to the demanding schedule of organising events.” State broadcasters SABC said they had no involvement in picking the sign language interpreter and Jacob Zuma, the country’s president, just said that he would “check the reports.”

VIDEO: Deaf Signer at Mandela Memorial Service Accused of Being a Fake

This must be very embarrassing for the South African government and annoying for Mandela’s family. We’re not sure if this situation dishonours the man’s memory or if it was just a ridiculous sideshow on an otherwise memorable service for South Africa’s former leader.

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