Who is the ‘fake’ sign language interpreter at Mandela’s memorial?

India's President Pranab Mukherjee speaks at the podium as a sign language interpreter (R) punches the air beside him during a memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela.
India’s President Pranab Mukherjee speaks at the podium as a man posing as a sign language interpreter, right, gestures beside him during a memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela on Dec. 10.
Credit: Reuters

The sign language interpreter on stage next to world leaders during Nelson Mandela’s memorial Tuesday has been deemed a fraud, doing nothing more than making meaningless gestures.

The man appointed to conduct South African sign language during speeches in honor of the former South African president has been condemned by DeafSA, a South African deaf association. The interpreter, whose identity is still unknown, stood alongside leaders, including President Barack Obama, South African President Jacob Zuma and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, which is now raising security questions as to how the man got clearance.

“He was basically gesturing. He didn’t follow any of the grammatical rules and structure of the language. He just invented his signs as he went along,” said Delphin Hlungwane, an official South African sign language interpreter, according to Reuters. “There was zero percent accuracy. He couldn’t even get the basics right. He couldn’t even say thank you.”

The man was also seen in television footage last year appearing to falsely interpret at the African National Congress. It didn’t take long for people on Twitter to pick up on the fraud and voice their outrage. A spoof Twitter account posing as the interpreter also sprung up with a bio saying, “My hands are my words.”

 


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