The interpreter who created an international furor at Nelson Mandela‘s memorial Tuesday admitted a history of schizophrenia and violence, and claimed he hallucinated during the event, leading to his jumbled attempt at sign language.
“What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium … I start realizing that the problem is here,” Jantjie said. “And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it comes. Sometimes I react violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things that chase me. I was in a very difficult position.”
“And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking, I’ll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn’t embarrass my country.”
Jantjie, who told the AP he once had a yearlong stint in a mental institution, apologized for his wild gesticulations that put off those in and out of the hearing-impaired community.
“I would like to tell everybody that if I’ve offended anyone, please, forgive me. But what I was doing, I was doing what I believe is my calling, I was doing what I believe makes a difference,” the man said.
Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, said on Thursday that Jantjie was mistakenly hired from SA Interpreters, a Johannesburg company whose owners “have vanished into thin air.”
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Bogopane-Zulu said authorities will investigate the manner in which the man was brought on for the sacrosanct event, and how well he was vetted beforehand. Jantjie was paid about $85 for his services during Tuesday’s event, of which he said he had no recollection of whatsoever.