"Fake" Mandela Interpreter Helped Burn Two Men to Death

Now we know why "fake" sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie was charged with murder in 2003: According to reports in the Associated Press and Johannesburg's Sunday Times, the interpreter was one of several people who burned two accused thieves to death by setting fire to tires placed around their necks.

"It was a community thing, what you call mob justice, and I was also there," Jantjie admitted to the Sunday Times on Sunday. His cousin and three friends told a similar story to the Associated Press.

Jantjie was charged with the crime, but instead of standing trial, he was institutionalized for more than a year, according to his cousin and friends. Last week, after his poor signing performance made international news, Jantjie told reporters he was experiencing a schizophrenic break during the memorial, causing him to hallucinate angels and hear voices; he also admitted similar breaks have caused him to become violent "a lot" in the past. A later report showed Jantjie has been charged, over the past 20 years or so, with rape, murder, kidnapping, and theft.

Considering Jantjie's checkered past, it's no surprise that South African government agencies in charge of security at the memorial—where Jantjie stood less than three feet from President Obama and other world leaders—have clammed up. From the Associated Press:

Four government departments involved in organizing the historic memorial service have distanced themselves from the hiring of Jantjie, telling the AP they had no contact with him. A fifth government agency, the Department of Public Works, declined to comment and referred all inquiries about Jantjie to the office of South Africa's top government spokeswoman, who has only said a "comprehensive report" will eventually be released.

[Image via AP]