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Interpreter at Mandela event: I was hallucinating

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 12, 2013 at 7:51 a.m.

JOHANNESBURG — The man accused of faking sign interpretation while standing alongside world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service said Thursday that he hallucinated that angels were entering the stadium, suffers from schizophrenia and has been violent in the past.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said in a 45-minute interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were "armed policemen around me." He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year.

A South African deputy Cabinet minister, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, later held a news conference to announce that "a mistake happened" in the hiring of Jantjie.

Government officials have tried to track down the company that provided Thamsanqa Jantjie but the owners "have vanished into thin air," said Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.

She apologized to deaf people offended around the world for Jantjie's incomprehensible signing, and said an investigation is under way to determine how Jantjie was hired and what vetting process, if any, he underwent for his security clearance.

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