Thamsanqa Jantjie, the infamous man who stood beside a slew of world leaders at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, including President Obama, and pretended to be a sign language interpreter, was allegedly involved in a murder in 2003 that he was never tried for.
The reason he wasn’t tried? The authorities found Jantjie mentally unfit for trial, and instead institutionalized him. AP says that Jantjie claims to be schizophrenic, and said he saw angels around President Obama while he was speaking.
The man was a few feet away from President Obama and lots of other leaders.
I wrote the other day about how Jimmy Kimmel got a real sign interpreter to translate what Jantjie was signing during one speech. Here’s a sample of what Jantjie was actually signing:
“Hello, welcome so far. Well cigarette join, bringing in different to you – a circle – and I would like to pray this offering, basically this is fun, all of these balls, to prove this is good, I’m sorry.”
AP did a great job trying to find out exactly where this guy came from. They report that the Deaf Federation of South Africa claims to have filed a complaint with the ANC about Jantjie having done this before at an event the South African president attended.
The Sunday Times of Johannesburg appears to have reported the story first, but their site is behind a membership wall so I can’t confirm it.
Several friends and a cousin told AP that Jantjie was part of a mob that necklaced two men in 2003 for stealing a television set. Necklacing is when they jam a tire filled with gasoline around your torso, then set it on fire. Jantjie never went to trial for the murders because the authorities deemed him mentally unfit. He was instead institutionalized for over a year.
It’s interesting that most of the articles I’m finding are not discussing the Secret Service role in this mess. While I’m sure they rely a lot on local security, still, how do they not double check the guy who is going to be standing next to the President?
Finally, Saturday Night Live had their take on the fake interpreter as well: