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South Africa Admits Mistake In Hiring Fraudulent Interpreter

The Official Memorial Service For Nelson Mandela Is Held In Johannesburg
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African deputy Cabinet minister says “a mistake happened” in the hiring of a sign language interpreter for the Nelson Mandela memorial service who experts say was signing gibberish on stage next to world leaders.

The Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu) said Thursday that government officials have tried to track down the company that provided Thamsanqa Jantjie (tam-SAHNG-kah shawn-TEE-leh) but that they “have vanished into thin air.”

The deputy minister apologized to deaf people offended around the world by what they say was the interpreter’s incomprehensible signing.

She says an investigation is under way to determine how the interpreter received a security clearance.

Jantjie stood gesticulating three-feet from U.S. President Barack Obama and others who spoke at the ceremony that was broadcast around the world. He tells The Associated Press he had visions of angels coming into the stadium and was trying not to panic because he was surrounded by armed policemen.

Jantjie insists he was doing proper sign-language interpretation of the speeches, but also apologized for his performance.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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