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Nelson Mandela’s memorial deaf interpreter used fake sign language

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Deaf viewers have complained that the official sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service was inept.

According to the Deaf Federation of South Africa, the man’s signs were “arbitrary” and “did not make sense”.

Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, South Africa’s first deaf female MP, tweeted that the interpreter was “signing rubbish”.

The man was “employed by ANC head office or used by them” but didn’t use South African sign language.

Nelson Mandela's memorial deaf interpreter used fake sign language

Nelson Mandela’s memorial deaf interpreter used fake sign language

“ANC-linked interpreter on the stage with dep president of ANC is signing rubbish. He cannot sign. Please get him off,” Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen tweeted during the live broadcast.

The ANC refused to comment on whether it had used the interpreter at previous events.

South Africa’s government said it was preparing a statement, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The sign language interpreter has yet to be publicly identified.

Francois Deysal, who is a signing trainer at the Deaf Federation of South Africa, said he was “not known to the deaf community or other interpreters in South Africa”.

South African sign language has its own structure and is not linked to any spoken language like Afrikaans, Xhosa or English..

South African Braam Jordaan, the Young Deaf Leader for the World Federation of the Deaf, said the man was “creating his own signs”.

Braam Jordaan said deaf people had been excluded in South Africa long before apartheid happened.

There is one sign language interpreter for every 10,000 deaf people in South Africa, he said via an interpreter.

Major national and international news channels broadcast Nelson Mandela’s state memorial service live on Tuesday.


The man was seen on stage signing as friends and family of Nelson Mandela, and world leaders, paid tribute to the former South African president.

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