Sign language interpreter at Mandela memorial under fire, called out as fake

Posted on: 9:47 am, December 11, 2013, by , updated on: 10:23am, December 11, 2013

Deaf people watching the Nelson Mandela memorial were shocked by the “fake” sign language interpreter whose gestures, many said, were “unintelligible.”

NBC News reported hundreds took to social media to vent their anger.

Several deaf groups confirmed the signing did not reflect what the speakers were saying at Mandela’s service.

Paul Breckell, chief executive of the U.K.-based charity Action on Hearing Loss, told NBC News, “We are shocked by the quality of sign language interpretation at Nelson Mandela’s memorial — if it could be called interpretation at all.”

He added that “the limited number of signs, the amount of repetition, lack of facial expressions and huge gaps in translation meant that deaf or hard of hearing people across the world were completely excluded from one of the biggest events in recent history.”

Among the first to express their dissatisfaction was Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman to be elected to the South African parliament, who tweeted that the signing was “rubbish,” adding: “He cannot sign. Please get him off.”

She took to the social media site several times during the day.

David Buxton, chief executive of the British Deaf Association, said in an email to NBC News that “the gentleman is a total fake.”

He said the same interpreter had provided sign language for South African President Jacob Zuma’s speech at a military event last year.

- Alexander Smith for NBC News