'Fake interpreter': I was hearing voices

The 'fake' interpreter says he had a schizophrenic attack and heard voices while on stage.

Thamsanqa Jantjie the man at the centre of the controversy over his sign language interpretation during Nelson Mandela's memorial on 10 December. Picture:Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - The interpreter at Tuesday's memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela says he was overwhelmed by the occasion and heard voices during a schizophrenic attack while on stage.

It emerged during the memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela that Thamsanqa Jantjie, didn't know what he was doing.

Properly trained sign language trainers say much of what he was signing was incomprehensible, but he did make references to prawns and rocking horses.

The incident has since led to outrage and embarrassment among the deaf community both locally and internationally.

Jantjie confirmed this morning that he is currently receiving treatment for schizophrenia and had an episode while on stage.

He said he was "too happy" while on stage but doesn't believe that this affected his interpretation.

"The attack didn't necessarily cause the mistakes on stage. I was excited and afterwards I started hearing things in my ears."

He also hit back at his critics this morning and says he has interpreted at numerous high profile events before and there have been no complaints.

Thamsanqa Jantjie at the ANC Centenary celebrations.

Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu has jumped to Jantjie's defence saying no one has the right to call him a fake.

"He is subscribed to an organisation called the South African Translators owned by two ladies."

Many people feel Jantjie owes South Africa an apology and want to know who was responsible for hiring him.

Meanwhile, Deaf South Africa has voiced its outrage and government says it is investigating who hired Jantjie.

During the event, several members of the deaf community voiced their complaints with some taking to Twitter.

Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen the first deaf woman in Parliament, tweeted that the official interpreter on stage was signing 'rubbish' and was an embarrassment.

She urged the ANC and event organisers to get him off stage.

A Capetonian sign language teacher also tweeted that he was making no sense and was simply moving his arms to try to look busy.

Speaking through an interpreter, Deaf SA national director Bruno Druchen, says he is particularly outraged because the organisation submitted a report to the ANC year ago complaining about this individual.

"It's not me being deaf, government is deaf. I am hoping that through social media, this whole thing will actually make them take notice."

Meanwhile, social media has gone crazy with Jantjie.

Users have even created humorous vines.