Sign language translator at Nelson Mandela’s memorial was a FAKE: South Africa’s deaf federation confirms his movements had ‘no meaning’

  • Standing on stage during televised event at the FNB stadium
  • Some members of the deaf community took to Twitter to express outrage

By  Jill Reilly

PUBLISHED: 06:12 EST, 11 December 2013 |  UPDATED: 09:08 EST, 11 December 2013

An interpreter who was seen by millions of television viewers worldwide translating Nelson Mandela’s memorial service into sign language was a ‘fake’, according to South Africa’s deaf federation.

The unidentified man, who was broadcast standing alongside world leaders including US President Barack Obama, was making up his own signs, according to the Deaf Federation of South Africa.

With the eyes of the world watching the FNB stadium in Johannesburg, the interpreter was ‘moving his hands around but there  was no meaning in what he used his hands for,’ claimed Bruno Druchen, the  federation’s national director.

The embarrassing claim comes after yesterday’s ceremony which saw crowds in the third empty stadium boo the country’s president Jacob Zuma.

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Accusations: The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial has been accused of being ‘a fake’ because he was not signing properly



Address: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the crowd while the interpreter stands next to him




Claims: Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African and board member of the World Deaf Federation, claimed the man, who signed for a portion of the ceremony including Barack Obama’s speech, was simply making up his own signs


Three sign language experts said the man was not signing in South African or American sign languages.

South African sign language covers all of the country’s 11 official languages, according to the federation.
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