A mystery South African man who acted as a sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service was a “fraud” who simply made “childish hand gestures” for hours as he stood on stage.
Deaf groups say the man, who has not yet been identified, made no sense in any language to those relying on him around the world, and did not seem to know the recognised signs for South Africa, Mr Mandela’s clan name Madiba, President Jacob Zuma or former President Thabo Mbeki.
As a result, they say, he had the effect of marginalising the deaf community, which was “contrary to everything Mandela fought for”.
The embarrassing revelation also raises questions about the security at the landmark event, which was attended by 91 heads of state and government including Barack Obama and David Cameron.
The interpreter, who wore the clearance pass of a government official, stood just feet from Mr Obama as he made his widely-praised speech, and also interpreted for South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, who apparently faces such a high threat level that he recently spent £12.4m on security upgrades to his private home.
The latest embarrassment was compounded by the news that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s house in Cape Town was burgled as he spoke at the event.
That’s some impressive ad lib.