THE ANC was warned 18 months ago that “sign language interpreter” Thamsanqa Jantjie was a fake.
But nothing was done and Jantjie was hired to interpret at possibly the most important international event of the century – last week’s memorial service in Soweto of the late President Nelson Mandela.
It was only after deaf people around the world expressed outrage at the meaningless nonsensical gestures being used by Jantjie to interpret speeches by – among others, US President Barack Obama and President Jacob Zuma himself – that the penny seems to have dropped.
Jantjie claimed he had also been employed by the ANC at the 100 Year celebrations in Mangaung, an ANC 101 Event, another ANC birthday event and the Siyanqoba Rally.
An embarrassed government has launched an investigation into how Jantjie was able to obtain a security clearance after it was revealed that, in addition to being a liar and a fraud, he was a man with a record of criminal charges against him.
It was reported that he faced a rape charge in 1994, house-breaking in 1997, malicious damage to property in 1998, and murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in 2003, raising fears that the hiring of Jantjie was a major security breach.
The murder charges were not pursued and the case file is reported to be empty.
Sunday Sun can also disclose today Jantjie admits he is actually “operations manager” of SA Interpreters, the company said to be responsible for hiring him, which also employs his wife, Siziwe.
He gave Sunday Sun the names of two people in the company. They are Buhle Makhoba and Mandla Sindana. Attempts to contact these two by cellphone were unsuccessful.
Jantjie’s business card gives an address for SA Interpreters as Barry Hertzog Avenue in Joburg. But building there belongs to a company called 360 Degrees which has no connection with Jantjie.
The business card has the slogan “Interpreting for Social Cohesion” but Sunday Sun has established the company doesn’t exist.
When asked about the bogus address, Jantjie told us: “I have never been to the company’s offices, as we always held our meetings at the ANC headquarters.”
We have seen an invoice for R6 000 which was sent to the ANC in June. But the true extent of the ANC’s involvement in the hiring of Janjie is not known. The only admission came from party spokesman Jackson Mthembu this week that Jantjie had interpreted at a party function before.
But Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu, deputy minister of people with disabilities told our sister newspaper Daily Sun: “We can’t be told that we’re embarrassed. A mistake happened but we are trying to improve.”
Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen from the Deaf Federation of SA told City Press newspaper that DeafSA had submitted a report about Jantjie to the ANC after a complaint in mid-2012 about the man’s interpretation of a speech made by President Zuma.
There was no response.
“When a deaf person complains, nobody listens,” she said.
Jantjie this week blamed his performance on a schizophrenic attack and said he saw angels flying at the stadium. He admitted these attacks sometimes had violent symptoms. But psychiatrist Dr Franco Colin was quoted as saying that Jantjie’s description of his symptoms on the platform were inconsistent with an acute psychotic episode.
“Schizophrenics very rarely see things, and if they do they don’t see angels but rather horrific images relating to paranoia.”
This raised questions of how reliable Jantjie’s own version of his illness, and the extent of it, actually is.
Asked to explain one of Jantjie’s meaningless signs, a skilled deaf sign interpreter told Sunday Sun he said things like chop tomatoes, chicken, rice and “all sorts of crazy ideas”.