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JOHANNESBURG — The sign-language interpreter on stage at Nelson Mandela's globally broadcast memorial service was a faker who was just waving his arms around meaninglessly, advocates for the deaf said Wednesday.

The unidentified man seen around the world on television next to leaders including United States President Barack Obama "was moving his hands around but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for," Bruno Druchen, the federation's national director, said.

Collins Chabane, one of South Africa's two presidency ministers, said the government is investigating the matter but has not finished yet because it has been overwhelmed with work organizing public viewing of Mandela's body in the South African capital, Pretoria, and his funeral Sunday in his hometown, Qunu. He added the "government will report publicly on any information it may establish."

Four sign language experts, including Druchen, said the man was not signing in South African or American sign languages and could not have been signing in any other known sign language because there was no structure to his arm and hand movements. South African sign language covers all of the country's 11 official languages, according to the federation.

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