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During the memorial service for beloved world figure Nelson Mandela on Tuesday (December 10), a sign language interpreter graced the stage near invited speakers. After a director for a South African nonprofit for the deaf declared the interpreter a fake, the man claims he was hallucinating during the event.

The interpreter, Thamsanqua Jantjie, spoke with the Associated Press and explained that he began to see visions of angels flying into Johannesburg’s FNB stadium during the event. Jantjie said such events in the past have caused him to react violently, and wanted to remain calm as not to alert the armed guards.

From the Associated Press:

“What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium … I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it comes. Sometimes I react violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things that chase me,” Jantjie said.

“I was in a very difficult position,” he added. “And remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I’ll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn’t embarrass my country.”

The issue has taken on a new complexity, now that the company that hired Jantjie packed up their bags and left town according to Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu. She said that officials in the country are investigating the matter, although an even stranger twist to the story has developed.

Jantjie said he was due for a six-month checkup the day of the service, which would have revealed if he needed to be on medicine to control is psychotic episodes. The company that hired Jantjie knew of his condition, but it wasn’t clear if they alerted authorities.

The Secret Service passed the buck to South African officials, saying it was the responsibility of the host organizing committee to place individuals onstage for the program.


Photo: Reuters