Fake sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie, who “translated” for President Barack Obama and other world leaders at the memorial for former South African president Nelson Mandela last week, admitted to South Africa’s Sunday Times that he had been part of a vigilante mob that burned two people to death in 2003.
“It was a community thing, what you call mob justice, and I was also there,” Jantjie told the newspaper.
Vigilante mobs emerged in South Africa in the 1980s as a form of political retaliation against opponents and suspected police informers. In the post-apartheid crime wave, poor communities turned to vigilante justice to punish suspected criminals. More recently, mobs have attacked immigrants from other African countries.
The Sunday Times uncovered that Jantjie had once worked for a company owned by a minister in the South African government. That minister said Jantjie had been dismissed for health reasons and had worked at the memorial in a “personal capacity.” Jantjie said he had a schizophrenic episode while translating there.