The deaf interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s Johannesburg memorial was a fake, the World Deaf Federation said Wednesday.
The man, who stood on stage “interpreting” speeches into sign for President Barack Oama and nearly 100 other heads of state, sparked outrage across the globe.
“He was a complete fraud,” Cara Loening, director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town, told Agence France-Presse.
“He wasn’t even doing anything,” Loening said. “There was not one sign there. Nothing. He was literally flapping his arms around.”
During Obama’s speech he looked as though he was “trying to swat a few flies away from his face and head.”
“What happened at the memorial service is truly a disgraceful thing to see,” said Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African who’s on the board of the World Deaf Federation, “It should not happen at all. What happened today will be forever aligned with Nelson Mandela & Deaf Community, thanks to this fake interpreter.”
“The structure of his hand, facial expressions and the body movements did not follow what the speakers was saying,” Mr. Jordaan told SBS news. “I was really upset and humiliated. He made up his own signs.”
During the live broadcast of the memorial, the first deaf woman to be elected to the South African Parliament, Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, tweeted: "ANC-linked interpreter on the stage with dep president of ANC is signing rubbish. He cannot sign. Please get him off."
"Shame on this male so called interpreter on the stage. What is he signing? He knows that the deaf cannot vocally boo him off. Shame on him," she later tweeted.
The interpreter has worked at other events for the African National Congress and doubts about his ability to sign have been raised before, according to the Age.