Report: S. African sign interpreter charged with murder in 2003

5:25 PM, Dec 13, 2013   |    comments
Thamsanqa Jantjie gesticulates at his home during an interview with the Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Dec. 12, 2013. (Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)
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(USA TODAY) The South African government says it is investigating the 'fake' sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial, according to the Associated Press.

Claims about Thamsanqa Jantjie's violent past have been reported by a South African TV news outlet. A spokesman for the Ministry of Police would not confirm these charges.

"All of our energies are focused on Nelson Mandela's funeral," Zweli Mnisi told USA TODAY Network."We are looking into the matter of the interpreter after the funeral."

Citing his criminal record, eNCA reported that Jantjie allegedly faced a murder charge in 2003. It is unknown whether the case was ever concluded. eNCA says the court file is empty.

eNCA's news director Patrick Conroy and reporter Karyn Maughan tweeted pictures of the interpreter's list of criminal charges. Maughan told USA TODAY Network that she had taken photos of Jantjie's criminal record from the South African Criminal Record Centre. USA TODAY Network could not independently verify the authenticity of the criminal record.

The eNCA's investigation also found that Jantjie faced rape in 1994, theft in 1995, housebreaking in 1997, malicious damage to property in 1998, murder, attempted murder and kidnapping charges in 2003. Many of the charges, according to eNCA, were withdrawn. USA TODAY Network has not been able to independently verify these claims.

Jantjie told the AP earlier that he had a history of violence and hallucinated during Mandela's memorial service. Jantjie said he suffers from schizophrenia and told Johannesburg's Star newspaper Thursday that he heard voices during the memorial service.

He has been criticized before by advocates for the deaf for his work interpreting at an event. Francois Deysel, a sign language interpreter with the Deaf Federation of South Africa, said he watched a video of Jantjie signing at the 100th anniversary celebration of the African National Conference in 2012 and concluded, "There was no sign language used. It was only slapping of hands and movement of arms."

The African National Conference said Thursday on its website that it "had not been aware of any of (the) complaints regarding the quality of services, qualification or reported illnesses of Mr. Jantjie."

Contributing: Jolie Lee

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