Thamsanqa Jantjie, whose fake sign language during the Nelson Mandela memorial service sparked global outrage, has allegedly faced murder, rape, kidnapping and theft charges.

Fake Sign Language Interpreter Faced Murder, Rape Charges

Earlier in the week, Jantjie blamed his ongoing struggle with schizophrenia – which made him hallucinate and hear voices – with causing his incoherent miming on the podium during the memorial service. Now, it’s being reported that Jantjie has a criminal record that should have kept him far away from the numerous heads of state present at the event.

Jantjie’s case went to trial in 2003. He was ultimately acquitted of everything except for the theft charge, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison. However, Jantjie was ultimately deemed unfit to stand trial, according to South Africa broadcaster eNCA.

The case’s existence has been confirmed by South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, although they were unable to verify how it was settled.

Thamsanqa Jantjie Admitted Violent Schizophrenic Episodes

When it came to light earlier in the week that Jantjie had experienced violent schizophrenic episodes in the past, an investigation was launched to determine how he was vetted to appear so close to world leaders. Organizers had not been aware of his troubling history.

“I do not think he was just picked up off the street, he was from a school for the deaf," said Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the South African deputy minister for women, children and persons with disability. “Whoever saw him being able to communicate with his deaf peers, with his deaf friends, understood that he can speak sign language. [But] he could not translate. English was a bit too much for him…he became overwhelmed."

Security analyst James Cavanaugh finds the lack of vetting that went into hiring Jantjie insufficient and entirely unacceptable, especially considering the scope and magnitude of the event. "There should not be a person there if that person is not completely vetted and they know exactly who they are," Cavanaugh told NBC News. "There are too many terrorists in that region of the world to take even the slightest chance to have a person that's not really known that close to world leaders."


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Prior to the report that revealed Jantjie’s disconcerting criminal record, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed that President Barack Obama was “not concerned” for his safety during the trip.

– Chelsea Regan

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