The presidency has yet to respond to statements that the sign language interpreter at the Nelson Mandela Memorial may not have been adequately qualified. In fact, according to media reports, Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town has gone as far as calling him a “fraud”. The director of the organisation, Cara Loening, said: “He is a complete and utter fraud.”
The deaf community feels insulted that the organisers of the event used someone whose credentials appear to be unreliable for an occasion of such magnitude. Another organisation which spoke out against the highly questionable interpreter is the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section (WDF). Braam Jordaan, who is one of the members of the board of WDF, said: “The structure of his hand, facial expressions and the body movements did not follow what the speaker was saying… He made up his own signs.”
Speaking for the deaf community, Loening echoed these sentiments about the interpreter: “If he values his life, he must come clean because the deaf community throughout the world are outraged.” She said that the façade seemed to have been the result of someone being taken “off the street” and told “to flap their hands around”.
Another authority on sign language who voiced her disappointment with the sign language interpreter is Wilma Newhoudt, the Vice President of the World Federation of the Deaf and a Member of Parliament in South Africa. She said that the interpreter’s signing was “shameful”.
Meanwhile, the public viewing of former President Nelson Mandela’s body as he lies in state began on Wednesday. Thousands joined the queue after his family and dignitaries had paid their respects to the first democratically elected president of South Africa at the Union Buildings. Mandela’s wife Graca leaned on her husband’s coffin in an emotional farewell. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was teary-eyed after saying goodbye to her former husband and father of her children. The body of President Nelson Mandela will lie in state at the Union Buildings until Friday 13 December 2013.