Mandela interpreter has faced criminal charges, news network says

Posted at 8:32 PM, Dec 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-13 20:32:12-05

(CNN) — The sign language interpreter ridiculed for his incoherent translation of the Mandela memorial service has faced a multitude of criminal charges in the past, including murder, attempted murder and kidnapping, South African news network eNCA reported on Friday.

The network said it received documents from a senior police source that show Thamsanqa Jantjie was found guilty of theft in 1995. The network said it was unclear if he spent time in jail.

The document also revealed that Jantjie was charged with rape, housebreaking, malicious damage to property and murder between 1994 and 2006, but the record shows that Jantjie was found not guilty of the rape and murder charges. The charges of housebreaking, damage to property and a 1996 theft were withdrawn.

Reached by eNCA Friday, Jantjie did not deny he faced the charges, but asked how the reporters came into possession of private details and said he wasn’t prepared to comment. The network said he then ended the conversation.

Jantjie stood a few feet away from world dignitaries, including President Barack Obama, on Tuesday as he produced a series of hand signals that experts said meant nothing.

Jantjie told CNN’s David McKenzie on Thursday that he suffers from schizophrenia and is under treatment.

CNN’s efforts to reach Jantjie were unsuccessful Friday.

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority told CNN on Friday it does not have any information on whether Jantjie was facing any of the charges outlined by eNCA.

At a news conference on Thursday, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, South African deputy minister of women, children and people with disabilities, said the government was looking into the vetting of Jantjie’s security clearance at the memorial.

CNN attempted to retrieve court documents from the court in Johannesburg on Friday, but was told that documents for that period are kept off site.

Jantjie said on Thursday that he is a fully qualified interpreter and has been trusted with other big events.

But Bruno Druchen, the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, has dubbed him a “fake interpreter.”

“The deaf community is in outrage,” Druchen said. “He is not known by the deaf community in South Africa nor by the South African Sign Language interpreters working in the field.”

Jantjie showed no facial expressions, which are key in South African sign language, and his hand signals were meaningless, Druchen said. “It is a total mockery of the language,” he added.