'Fake' sign language interpreter at Mandela memorial draws outrage

Johannesburg – While millions across the globe were inspired and moved by speeches made at former President Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday, the international deaf community expressed outrage over what they say was a fake sign language interpreter.

According to a report on Australian site, SBS News, deaf South African and board member of the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section Braam Jordaan said the interpreter was simply making up his own signs.

“The structure of his hand, facial expressions and the body movements did not follow what the speaker was saying,” Jordaan was quoted as saying. “What happened at the memorial service is truly disgraceful thing to see – it should not happen at all.”

Jordaan said the interpreter seemed to simply be making up his own hand movements.

A representative for the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters, Sheena Walters also told SBS the hand movements the interpreter was using was not recognisable as any type of sign language:

“Most sign languages across the world share a similar structure and pattern and this person seems to be making a lot of repetitive signs and isn’t displaying the usual facial expression or structure of sign language that you would normally see.”

As the memorial service for the global icon and leader, affectionately known as Madiba, was streamed across nearly every news channel across the world, more and more members of the deaf community took to social media site Twitter to express their anger:

“ANC-linked interpreter on the stage with dep president of ANC is signing rubbish. He cannot sign. Please get him off,” tweeted Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman elected to South African Parliament.

While South African sign language interpreter, Francois Deysel tweeted that the interpreter was “making a mockery of our profession.”

“He was singing rubbish the whole time, meaning he was just throwing his hands around. #SignLanguage” tweeted RIP Mandela.

According to reports in the media the ANC has made use of this interpreter at previous events, and questions over his ability have been raised in the past.

According to SBS, the ANC was contacted for comment but did not reply by time of writing. SA Breaking News has contacted government spokesperson for comment and is awaiting response.


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