Twitter Is on the Case of the ‘Fake’ Sign Language Interpreter at Mandela’s Memorial

Akoto Ofori-Atta
President Barack Obama delivers a speech next to a sign language interpreter during the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.

Take a look at this sign language interpreter from Nelson Mandela's televised memorial service:

Now take a closer look: He's using very few facial expressions—an important component of sign language—and he's repeating the same hand gestures over and over again. In other words:

During the broadcast, Bruno Druchen, the national director of DeafSA, tweeted:

And Wilma Newhoudt, a deaf member of the South African Parliament and vice president of the World Federation of the Deaf, tweeted:

"The so-called 'interpreter' who interpreted at the official memorial service for late former president Nelson Mandela at FNB stadium has been dubbed the 'fake interpreter' and the deaf community is in outrage," Druchen said in an official statement from DeafSA.


So, who hired homie? No one knows yet. Perhaps he's one of President Jacob Zuma's homeboys? Who does the vetting for these sorts of gigs?

The African National Congress said in a statement that it has used the phony signer's services before, but the memorial wasn't an ANC event, so it wasn't responsible for the hiring.

That a man who isn't qualified to sign would so severely insult South Africa's deaf community while robbing them of the chance to fully engage in the memorial of their nation's hero is quite incredible. What a touching way to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela's legacy.

Druchen, who is also lobbying to make South African Sign Language the official 12th language of the nation, tweeted that he's working with the deaf community to get to the bottom of this. We'll update this post as more information becomes available.


Akoto Ofori-Atta is the editor of The Grapevine. Like her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.

If you want to see what's hot on black Twitter, check out The Chatterati.Akoto Ofori-Atta is the editor of The Grapevine. Like her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter. 

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