Report: Mandela Memorial Interpreter Was Once Accused of Murder

Thamasanqa Jantjie, better known as the "fake" deaf interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial, reportedly faced a series of criminal charges in South Africa, including murder. 

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Thamasanqa Jantjie, better known as the "fake" sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial, reportedly has faced a long series of criminal charges in South Africa, including murder and rape. That's according to a report from eNCA, a 24-hour news network in Africa.

Earlier this week, Jantjie confirmed that he has a history of mental illness, including schizophrenia. In an interview with the AP, the interpreter revealed that he's had "a lot" of violent incidents in the past and blamed his poor (some say incompetent) performance at the memorial on hallucinations. eNCA's report, citing court records, says that Jantjie has previously been charged with rape in 1994, theft in 1995, housebreaking in 1997, malicious damage to property in 1998, and murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in 2003. Of those charges, there's only a record of conviction on the theft charge. He was acquitted of the 1994 rape charge, and a portion of the other charges were dropped.

Beyond that, it's not really clear what happened to Jantjie in the courts, because the court records seem to be incomplete. The folder on his 2003 murder charge, for instance, was apparently empty when eNCA attempted to view it. Jantjie was one of many charged in the 2003 case, which was eventually referred to the South Gauteng High Court. eNCA speculates that that the charges against Jantjie might have been dropped due to mental illness, rendering him unfit to stand trial. The country's National Prosecuting Authority did not confirm or deny the charges to eNCA.

Jantjie caused widespread outrage this week after members of the South African deaf and hearing impaired community reported on social media that the man hired as an interpreter for Nelson Mandela's memorial wasn't actually signing intelligible words. From there, the story just got weirder, as Jantjie's history of mental illness was revealed (the interpreter said that he was suffering from a schizophrenic episode on stage during the memorial, including hallucinations of "angels.") And the firm that employed Jantije has now, apparently, "vanished," either too embarrassed or too afraid to defend themselves.

Update: The South African government told the AP on Friday that it was investigating Jantije's involvement in the Nelson Mandela memorial. The government is aware of reports that the interpreter previously faced a murder charge.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.