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ANC fingers state for organising 'fake' interpreter

12 December 2013, 23:02

Johannesburg - The memorial for Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium where an inadequate interpreter was used, was organised by the state and not the ANC, the party said on Thursday.

"Since yesterday [Wednesday], the African National Congress has been inundated with enquiries from local and international media regarding the sign language interpreter," spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.

"The ANC confirms that the organisation has over the years utilised the services of Thamsanqa Jantjie. The official memorial service held for president Mandela, however, was organised by the state and not the ANC."

Mthembu said the way Jantjie's services were procured were thus government and not ANC processes.

"Because of this, the ANC is not in a position to offer a view on how his services were secured by government," he said.

"It is important to make the point that, up until yesterday, the ANC had not been aware of any of complaints regarding the quality of services, qualifications or reported illnesses of Jantjie."

The party would follow up the correspondence sent to it and, where necessary, act on it.

The ANC welcomed the investigation instituted by the government into the matter and urged all interested parties to await its outcome so the full facts of what happened could be ascertained.

"Our common responsibility at this time is ensuring a fitting send-off for the father of our nation, icon of our struggle Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe comrade Nelson Mandela," said Mthembu.

A mistake

Earlier on Thursday, Deputy Minister for people with Disabilities Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said that using Jantjie's services was a mistake, but that it was not something South Africa should be embarrassed about.

"We can't be told we are embarrassed... did a mistake happen? Yes," she said.

"I don't think it would be accurate for me to stand here and say we are embarrassed.

"A mistake happened while we were trying.... We try to improve."

She said the interpreter had been overwhelmed, and had trouble translating from Xhosa to English to sign language.

Xhosa was his first language, and there should have been a second sign language interpreter on stage as directed by regulations.

She said the company for which he worked, SA Interpreters, was found after the memorial to have provided sub-standard sign language services for some time.

"It appears that they had been cheating all along," said Bogopane-Zulu.

Concerns over Jantjies

The company had been charging the interpreter's services at R800 a day, when normally a sign language interpreter charged between R1 300 to R1 700 an hour.

Regarding who procured the company and the interpreter's services, the deputy minister repeated Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane's statement on Wednesday that the various government departments involved in Tuesday's memorial were finalising what happened.

Bogopane-Zulu said Wednesday was the first time she had received complaints about the interpreter.

Deaf organisations have claimed that they first raised concerns about him some time ago.

Jantjie was metres away from the likes of President Jacob Zuma, US President Barack Obama, Cuban President Raul Castro, and Mandela's widow Graça Machel during proceedings at Mandela's memorial at FNB Stadium, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.

The Cape Times reported earlier on Thursday that Jantjies said he had suffered a schizophrenic episode during the memorial.

He told the newspaper that he did not know whether it was the importance of the event or the happiness he felt on the day which triggered the attack.

Jantjies, who uses medication for schizophrenia, claimed that during the proceedings he lost concentration and began hallucinating.

He later apologised for his actions and said he "was alone in a dangerous situation" and there was nothing he could do.



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