Mandela Sign-Language Interpreter Made Stuff Up

Deaf community outraged
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2013 8:24 AM CST

The sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial service yesterday wasn't actually signing what the speakers on stage were saying, according to many members of the deaf community. As the service was live-streamed, Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen (the first deaf woman elected to South Africa's Parliament) tweeted, "ANC linked interpreter cannot sign at all, he's making up signs. Please get him off," The Age reports. She later added: "What is he signing? He knows that the deaf cannot vocally boo him off. Shame on him!"

And those complaints were echoed by many others—in both traditional and social media—who called the man a "fake" and a "charlatan" and accused him of simply making up signs. One fellow interpreter accused him of "making a mockery of our profession," and the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa called him a "clown." The South African government is preparing a statement on the matter, USA Today reports. The AP adds that it's one of a number of issues that plagued the memorial service: Faulty public transport hindered mourners from getting to the event, and a faulty audio system prevented many of the tens of thousands present from hearing the leaders' speeches. (More sign language stories.)

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