JOHANNESBURG (AP) – The man accused of faking sign interpretation while standing alongside world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service said Thursday he saw “angels” at the event, has been violent in the past and suffers from schizophrenia.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said in a 45-minute interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were “armed policemen around me.” Jantjie, who stood gesticulating three-feet (1 meter) from Obama and others who spoke at Tuesday’s ceremony that was broadcast around the world, insisted that he was doing proper sign-language interpretation of the speeches of world leaders.

But he also apologized for his performance that has been dismissed by many sign-language experts as gibberish. “What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium … I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it come. Sometimes I get violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things chasing me,” Jantjie said.

“I was in a very difficult position,” he added. “And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. Asked how often he had become violent, he said “a lot” while declining to provide details.

Video update thanks to Captain Obvious

  1. Dallas says:

    I’m outraged that this person was gesticulating near Pres Obama.

  2. ECA says:

    Security threat??
    an admission that our representatives are Afraid of the people..

  3. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    You know… I watched that in the original, it passed thru my mind “in what language” is he signing? Then I thought it might be universal, which unless its is based on some kind of phonics, it really would be object based.

    It all goes to what symbolic thought really is.

    … and I will even take some pride in that I thought a lot of his moves looked more like dance moves than the sign language I have casually observed before. More fine movement of the fingers rather than the big moves you need to attract the ladies on the dance floor.

    Does anybody know?—is sign language “universal?”

    • Tim says:

      Is that like how Hellen Keller broke her fingers falling down the well??

      She screamed too loud.

      She broke her other hand trying to read a stop sign at eighty miles per hour.

    • Mr Diesel says:

      No, it isn’t universal. I studied ASL and it is not the same as the spastic gesticulations of the moron at the terrorists memorial in South Africa.

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

        Looks like they are missing a “trick” there then. Seems like all the reasons in the world for it to be universal?

        Perhaps a “main body” of common signs and then an additional group of phonic based signs for the locality?

        I wonder what Noam Chomsky would say about this?

  4. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    Reading the header again, it strikes me that he could with great effort “control” his behavior KNOWING that armed police were around him.

    There are at least two schools of thought about what CRAZY means:

    If you want to do crazy stuff:

    1. but stop if an authority figure is around
    2. and will do it regardless of who is around.

    As a progressive Eugenicist, I say: who cares…. gas them both. We have enough people for our needs. Spend our $$, resources, time on those who can benefit. Some kind of religion not to.

    Yea verily!

    • jpfitz says:

      I’m urged at times to do the latter. Can’t help myself sometimes. Sometimes I feel like a nut and sometimes I keep my mouth shut.

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

        Well jp, thats just like all the rest of us except as we take wing here on DU and fly.


        No one flocking up. A whole bunch of solo artists.

        No hymnals.

        Self Sorting.

        ……. it all means …… something.

        but I dither.

        • jpfitz says:

          No hymnals, thank the flying spaghetti monster.

          No flocking we’re all solo, I disagree, somehow we are All connected on this spinning blue orb.

  5. Better RED than BLEW! says:

    Seems that everyone so far has missed the point!


    It’s proof positive that a well armed presence will (likely) prevent bad things.

  6. Glenn E. says:

    The latest news is that the officials that hired the interpreter have vanished. Can be found, to explain why this clown. Seems like the kind of setup, if you want to try pulling off an assassination. But the guy them managed to get, lost his nerve, when he saw all the guns around him. Or imagined the amount of fire power he’d face, if he dared try anything. I think that was the extent of the “angels” that he thought he saw.

    I don’t know sign language. But even I could see he was making roughly the same basic gestures, over and over. With only minor variations. Which were of course, all nonsense. Who would hire somebody, who couldn’t actually sign, for something this important? And then vanish, so as to not explain their reason.

    If not a failed assassination plot. Then a message to Obama or America, that he can be gotten to. And the Secret Service is of little use, protecting him. Maybe Obama is under pressure to do something. And this was a subtle reminder, that he better do it.

  7. Kiwini says:

    Look at the bright side… first: for once, our denier-in-chief has been truthful in declaring his ignorance about something.

    Secondly: the faux signer made a lot more sense than Barry ever did. Jay Carney’s overdue for replacement, and this fellow would fit right in.

  8. McCullough says:

    Saturday Night Live should see this as a gift…take it and run with it. Hell, bring Garrett Morris back just for old times sake.

  9. MarcoB says:

    I still think he was put in there because the organization forgot they had to put someone to translate sign language, and at the last minute they realized they had to. In my head it went like this:

    – Hey, Jantjie, come here. You will make sign language translation. — ordered his chief.
    – But…, I don’t… — said Jantjie.
    – Shut up! I don’t want to listen a word. Go there and make as I told you. Nobody will notice it. — said his chief jokingly.
    – OK, chief. — said promptly Jantjie.

    After the fact, when the plot came to light.

    – Jantjie, come quick! — said his chief — They discovered!
    – What? How? Who? — asked a puzzled Jantjie.
    – You idiot! You were on TV, making indistinguishable sign language, side-by-side to great world leaders on the funeral of our beloved Mandela. Everybody could see you, even Mandela! — said angrily his chief — Now we are fucked, I tell you.
    – You will have to fix it, or I will send you comb gorillas in the jungle for the rest of your miserable life. — this time his chief was very serious.

    Jantjie thought really hard for a second or two, and opened a big smile.

    – Chief, I know what to do. Let me handle it. I won’t let Mandela or you down. — said Jantjie thrilled when he rushed outside.

    On the other day, when Jantjie’s Chief opened the newspaper, he screamed as lound as he could:

    – Jantjieeeee!

    One said that, even the animals in the deepest part of Africa’s jungle heard that.

    I don’t know it is anyhow close to the truth but I like to imagine this way.

  10. MarcoB says:

    Just a little question came to my mind. Try to answer it.

    If Jantjie wasn’t the official sign language translator, what did happen to the official translator?
    Did he lost the bus?
    Did he over sleep?
    What is his name?

  11. bob says:

    Surely the NSA would have known beforehand that this guy was going to be the sign language translator.

    • Greg Allen says:

      The NSA has so much data overload they can only find terrorists after they attack.

      We have spend BILLIONS on the NSA, totally forfeited our privacy rights, yet it is unclear if they have stopped a single terrorist attack.

  12. Captain Obvious says:

    Interpreting the interpreter.

  13. Captain Obvious says:

    I like this even better.

  14. jpfitz says:

    For the folks who believe firepower is the ultimate defense against assassinations, consider small biological or chemical weapons that could have been carried by Thamsanqa Jantjie.

  15. dave m brewer says:

    When Obama began talking he signed, “He’s lying again.”

    • Greg Allen says:

      >>When Obama began talking he signed, “He’s lying again.”

      If he signed that, he obviously was a Fox News dupe.

  16. orchidcup says:

    When I see angels I keep my mouth shut.

    • Greg Allen says:

      …and if those angels are in fancy underpants I start flipping the channels looking for football.

  17. Greg Allen says:

    This is the kind of stuff you get in unregulated, corrupt countries.

    People just buy diplomas and certificates. And then bribe their way into a high level job.

    It’s common to have structural engineers or doctors or you-name-it who have literally not taken a class in their field.

    I gotta say, living in a third world country made me a huge fan of big government regulation.

  18. Greg Allen says:

    I have to admit — I have a passing admiration for these kinds of frauds.

    Remember that couple who bluffed their way into a white house dinner?

    As a kid, I used to casually stroll into country clubs, parties, fancy office buildings, etc. My friend and I usually made our way in. I don’t think we got thrown-out once.

    I guess it was a kind-of real world hacking.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      I did the same once. At the Awanee (sp) Lodge in Yosemite. It was a group of San Francisco Lawyers having a retreat. I took wifey by the elbow and just walked in as we were dressed for it and the Awanee was otherwise not offering dinner/food except at the bar. We filled up on oerderves before some old guy came over and asked who I was and did not believe I was the new guy in criminal prosecutions. He said: “You’ve had your fun, now please leave.” and we did.

      I dont know why, but I have always remembered that incident very fondly while wifey remains mortified. At least two different kinds of people in this world….. wifey and me.

      • jpfitz says:

        It’s always fun to get the adrenaline flowing, braking the norm and getting some free excitement should have brought you and the wife closer. I’m guessing the two of you were not simpatico in some ways.

  19. sargasso_c says:

    One of the funniest things that I have ever read.

  20. deowll says:

    With people like this man the community needs to take steps to protect both him and others. This was not done.


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