Govt to investigate ‘fake’ interpreter

JOBURG- The incorrect use of sign language at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela is being investigated, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said.

This follows reports that the deaf community is outraged over what they say was a ‘fake’ sign language interpreter used at the service on 10 December.

According to reports, the sign language interpreter used at the memorial at FNB Stadium may have been unqualified.

The man, wearing an official security access pass around his neck, took to the stage gesticulating while dignitaries addressed thousands in the 95 000 seat stadium.

However, his gestures did not correspond with those of the SABC’s sign language interpreter, who was featured in an inserted screen during the live broadcast.

Several organisations for the deaf and members of the deaf community around the world have spoken out against the ‘fake’ sign language interpreter.

Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African citizen and a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section, said he was upset and humiliated by the mystery interpreter who was supposed to be signing what speakers were saying but “made up his own signs”.

“Most puzzlingly, the structure of his hand, facial expressions and the body movements did not follow what the speaker was saying,” Jordaan said referring to the interpreter’s gesticulation of US president Barack Obama’s tribute.

“This is a serious security breach because how could the fake interpreter manage to get on stage right next to the US president without any professional qualifications, evaluations or screening?” Jordaan added.

Outraged by the sign language interpreter, people took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

@FrancoisDeysel, a South African sign language interpreter, tweeted: “Please get him off this is an embarrassment, no signs make sense, he is moving his arms try[ing] to look busy.”

@SherrieBeaver tweeted: “My heart breaks for all #signlanguage interpreters out there. An amazing profession mocked on an international level. #fakeinterpreter”

Chabane said the government had noted the concerns that have been raised about the alleged incorrect use of sign language.

“Government is looking into this matter but has not been able to conclude this inquiry due to the demanding schedule of organising events related to the state funeral. [The government] wishes to assure South Africans that we are clear in defending the rights and dignity of people with disabilities,” said Chabane.

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