There were no records of a murder case involving Jantjie at South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, but spokesman Nathi Mncube said that doesn’t necessarily mean Jantjie was never a suspect.
“I cannot confirm that the guy was charged, but I cannot deny it, either,” he said. “There are no records right now.”
Jantjie also faced other lesser criminal charges in the past, eNCA reported. In the interview with the AP, he blamed his past violent episodes on his schizophrenia, but declined to provide details.
The fiasco surrounding the use of Jantjie to provide sign language translation before a worldwide television audience has turned into an international embarrassment for South Africa, whose ruling party, the African National Congress, and president, Jacob Zuma, have already lost popularity because of corruption scandals and other public grievances. But the ANC is far more powerful than the opposition and Zuma, who was booed at the Mandela memorial, is likely to be its candidate in elections next year.
The U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Friday that “we’re all very upset” about Jantjie, who was just 3 feet from Obama at the memorial service for Mandela, who died Dec. 5 at 95.
Thomas-Greenfield told reporters in Kenya that U.S. officials are concerned about security and how Jantjie could have gotten so close to world leaders. She said officials were also dismayed because people watching around the world who needed sign language weren’t able to understand what was said at the ceremony. She called the problem “extraordinarily sad.”
South Africa’s arts and culture minister, Paul Mashatile, apologized for the use of Jantjie on Friday, marking the second apology from the government in two days, and said reforms must be implemented to ensure such an incident doesn’t happen again.