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December 14, 2013

Fake interpreter reportedly faced murder charge

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s government was confronted yesterday with a new and chilling allegation about the bogus sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial: He was reportedly accused of murder 10 years ago.

Officials said they were investigating the revelation by the national eNCA TV news station. But they were unable, or unwilling, to explain why a man who says he is schizophrenic with violent tendencies was allowed to get within arm’s length of President Barack Obama and other world leaders.

Investigators probing Thamsanqa Jantjie “will compile a comprehensive report,” said Phumla Williams, the top government spokeswoman. But she did not say how long the investigation would take and insisted details would not be released until it was completed.

“We are not going to sweep it under the carpet,” Williams said. “We want to own up if there is a mistake, but we don’t want to be dishonest” to Jantjie.

An Associated Press reporter found Jantjie at a makeshift bar owned by his cousin on the outskirts of Soweto Friday, near his concrete house close to shacks and an illegal dump where goats pick at grass between the trash. Asked about the murder allegation, Jantjie turned and walked away without saying anything.

A day earlier, he told the AP that he had been violent “a lot” in the past, has schizophrenia and hallucinated during the Mandela memorial that angels were descending into the stadium. He also apologized for his performance, but defended his interpreting as “the best in the world.”

His assertion was ridiculed by deaf advocates who said he didn’t know how to sign “Mandela” or “thank you.”

The outcome of the reported murder case that eNCA said dated from 2003 was unclear, and the television report did not disclose any details.

Officials at the Johannesburg court where the murder charge was reportedly lodged were not in their offices Friday afternoon and did not respond to email requests seeking comment.

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