South Africa’s eNews Channel Africa revealed today that Thamisanqa Jantjie, the fake sign language interpreter who famously stood near President Barack Obama and other world leaders during the Mandela memorial, had faced charges of “rape (1994), theft (1995), housebreaking (1997), malicious damage to property (1998), murder, attempted murder and kidnapping (2003).” The case file on the murder charges is gone.
The White House tried to minimize the incident, calling it a distraction and referring questions to the Secret Service or the government of South Africa. South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, said that it was not responsible, despite the fact that Jantjie had worked for them in the past, and said that the decision to assign him translation duties during the Mandela memorial had been a separate, “state” decision.
Not only was Jantjie apparently not a certified sign language interpreter, but he had a troubling criminal record. The White House shows a disturbing lack of interest in the fact that he was allowed to stand a few feet away from the president. Thankfully, nothing happened, but the worst certainly could have. Is there a collapse of professionalism within the Obama administration? At what point does the buck-passing stop?