Deaf signer at Mandela tribute 'just flapping arms around'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 1:29am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 1:29am


South Africa's deaf community yesterday accused the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial of being a fake, who had merely flapped his arms around during speeches.

"He's a complete fraud," said Cara Loening, director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town. "He wasn't even doing anything, There was not one sign there. Nothing. He was literally flapping his arms around."

He looked as if he was "trying to swat a few flies away from his face and his head".

The man who signed for a section of the ceremony, including Barack Obama's speech, was simply making up his own signs, said Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African and board member of the World Deaf Federation

Members of South Africa's deaf community have previously raised concerns about the interpreter, who has been used at other African National Congress events. A spokesman for President Jacob Zuma said he was checking the reports to try to determine the man's identity.

During his appearance on Tuesday, Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman to be elected to the South African parliament, tweeted: "ANC-linked interpreter on the stage with dep president of ANC is signing rubbish. He cannot sign. Please get him off."

Adding more embarrassment to the authorities, police said burglars broke into the Cape Town home of peace icon Desmond Tutu when he was away speaking at Mandela's memorial.