As if this story wasn't strange enough: The "fake" sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial claims he was in the midst of a schizophrenic episode during the ceremony, causing him to hallucinate and hear voices. Meanwhile, the company that hired the hallucinating interpreter has "vanished."
The interpreter, Thamsanqua Jantjie, told the Associated Press he first noticed something was wrong when he saw angels streaking into Johannesburg's FNB stadium. "What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium… I start realizing that the problem is here," he said.
Jantjie said similar episodes have triggered "a lot" of violent reactions from him in the past, a prospect that—considering the number of security guards nearby—made him nervous.
"Sometimes I react violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things that chase me," Jantjie told the AP. "And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I'll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn't embarrass my country."
That very same day, Jantjie claims, he was due for a six-month check-up at his doctor to determine if he should continue his medication or if he needed to be checked into a mental health care facility.
SA Interpreters, the company that hired Jantjie for the memorial, paying him $85, was aware of his condition but did not know about his scheduled doctor's appointment, according Jantjie.
Officials from that company, however, were unavailable for comment, in part because they "have vanished into thin air," as a South African cabinet member put it. Both South African government officials and the Associated Press visited the company's listed address, only to find a different company there, with managers who had no information about SA Interpreters or its owners.
As for Jantjie, he says he did the best job that he could, considering the circumstances. "There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation," Jantjie told Johannesburg's The Star on Thursday. "I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry. It's the situation I found myself in."
UPDATE: The Secret Service released a statement about the hallucinating interpreter granted security clearance to stand three feet from President Obama:
"Agreed upon security measures between the U.S. Secret Service and South African Government security officials were in place during the recent memorial service in Johannesburg. Program items such as stage participants or sign language interpreters were the responsibility of the host organizing committee."
Good to know.
[Image via AP]