South African minister sorry for sign interpreter’s performance

Johannesburg, Dec 13: South African Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile Friday apologised to the deaf community for the performance of the sign language interpreter at the memorial service to honour former president Nelson Mandela.

“We sincerely apologise to the deaf community and to all South Africans for any offence that may have been suffered,” Xinhua quoted Mashatile as saying.

Thami Jantjie, the sign language interpreter, has come under fire from organisations representing deaf people worldwide for gesticulating gibberish during Mandela’s memorial service at the FNB Stadium here Tuesday.

Mashatile said the government has noted the concerns expressed by South Africans, especially members of the deaf community.

Jantijie interpreted the speeches of scores of dignitaries including US President Barack Obama and South Africa President Jacob Zuma at the memorial service, with sign language which the deaf community maintain they could not understand.

As outrage poured in, Jantjie came to his own defence, blaming medical condition for what had happened.

He said he was a schizophrenic patient under treatment, and during the service, a schizophrenic episode occurred.

The interpreter reportedly worked for SA Interpreters which has been providing sub-standard sign language services for some time.

Mashatile has promised that this kind of incident would not happen again as the government would regulate the practice of language practitioners.

“We have long recognised the need for the language profession to be reformed and improved. We hope to speedily begin regulating the profession in early 2014 through the South African Language Practitioners’ Council Bill,” the minister said.

The bill, presented to Parliament earlier this year and expected to be passed into law next year, provides for the regulation of the language profession, seeks to regulate the training of language practitioners and provide for control of the accreditation and registration of language practitioners.