WASHINGTON DC —
The sign language interpreter, who was sharply criticized by organizations for the deaf for giving "meaningless" signs during the memorial service for late South African president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, has blamed a schizophrenic episode for his performance.
Thamsanqa Jantjie said in an article Thursday in the Johannesburg newspaper The Star that he heard voices and hallucinated during Tuesday's service, which affected his ability to interpret the speeches by leaders such as U.S. president Barack Obama.
Jantjie apologized and said there was nothing he could do about the incident. He also defended his ability, telling a radio station Thursday that he is a "champion" signer.
The head of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, Bruno Druchen, said the man's gestures were "self-invented signs" not used in South African sign language, and called the incident a "mockery of the language."
The ANC government, which was using the same interpreter for the second time, says it is investigating.
Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, spoke Thursday on the issue.