Thamsanqa Jantjie, the fake sign language interpreter whose performance at the memorial to Nelson Mandela on Tuesday sparked international outrage and national embarrassment, lashed out against his critics in an interview with local radio station Highveld 94.7 on Wednesday, saying that he was being attacked unfairly, and that he had interpreted for many previous events without being told that what he was doing was wrong.
“I’ve been interpreting for the quite number of events. And then now–I’m very sad now, because they are the ones who are supposed to protect me….They are supposed to come…and say, ‘Mr. Jantjie, you don’t interpret the right interpretation’….
“Everybody’s attacking me for nothing! What I was doing, I was doing as I was doing all the time. And if what I was doing all the time was wrong, why do they come now? Aish! Nkosi yam (my God)!”
Jantjie had, in fact, interpreted for previous events staged by the ruling party, the African National Congress, which claimed not to have received complaints, though the Deaf Federation of South Africa said it had made them.
The U.S. Secret Service had Jantjie’s name for 48 hours prior to the ceremony but did not vet his credentials.
In a separate interview with the Associated Press, Jantjie said he had been hallucinating onstage.
Asked by the Highveld interviewer, Darren Simpson, to describe basic signs such as “I love you,” Jantjie did not cooperate.
Afterwards, Simpson reflected: “He doesn’t think he’s a charlatan. He’s totally convinced that he can do what he can do. You know like when you encourage your kids to play soccer, and you know they such at soccer, but, ‘My boy, you are the next Ronaldo.’…I think somewhere along the line, this has happened.”