Experts say the man who stood on stage alongside Obama and other world leaders was not using any internationally recognised form of sign language. South Africa’s deaf community on Wednesday accused the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial of being a fake, who had merely flapped his arms around during speeches.
DeafSA, South Africa’s leading deaf association, condemned the presence of the unknown man at the memorial to Mandela attended by President Jacob Zuma and scores of world leaders including US President Barack Obama.
While dignitaries were addressing the crowd in the 95,000-seat Soccer City stadium, the young suited man with an official security pass round his neck produced a series of hand signals that experts said meant absolutely nothing.
“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.”
The interpreter, who translated US President Barack Obama’s speech, looked as if he was “trying to swat a few flies away from his face and his head”.
“The deaf community in South Africa are completely outraged and nobody knows who he is,” added Loening. “We can’t find a name or anything. The organisations who have accredited interpreters do not know him at all.”