Bogus signer involved in killings
Cousins, friends of bogus sign language interpreter at last week's Nelson Mandela memorial service says he was among a group of people who accosted two men found with a stolen television and burned them to death.PT0M59S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2zhs4 620 349 December 17, 2013
Johannesburg: The bogus sign language interpreter at last week's Nelson Mandela memorial service was among a group of people who accosted two men found with a stolen television and burned them to death, one of the interpreter's cousins and three of his friends told The Associated Press Monday.
But Thamsanqa Jantjie never went to trial for the 2003 killings when other suspects did in 2006 because authorities determined he was not mentally fit to stand trial, said the four. They insisted on speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the fake signing fiasco, which has deeply embarrassed South Africa's government and prompted a high-level investigation into how it happened.
Their account of the killings matched a description of the crime and the outcome for Jantjie that he himself described in an interview published on Sunday by the Sunday Times newspaper of Johannesburg.
Thamsanqa Jantjie gestures at his home during an interview with the Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa, on December 12, 2013. Photo: AP
"It was a community thing, what you call mob justice, and I was also there," Mr Jantjie told the newspaper.
Mr Jantjie was not at his house on Monday, and the cousin told AP Mr Jantjie had been picked up by someone in a car Sunday and had not returned.
Contacted by AFP on Monday, Mr Jantjie dismissed the newspaper report as "nonsense".
"I don't know that. Sunday Times is talking nonsense," he said, but refused to elaborate.
Instead of standing trial after the incident, Mr Jantjie was institutionalised for a period of longer than a year, the four said, and then returned to live in his poor township neighbourhood on the outskirts of Soweto. At some point after that, they said, he started getting jobs doing sign language interpretation at events for the governing African National Congress Party.
Mr Jantjie told the AP last week he has schizophrenia and hallucinated, seeing angels while gesturing incoherently just 3 feet away from President Barack Obama and other world leaders during the Tuesday ceremony at a Soweto stadium. Signing experts said his arm and hand movements were mere gibberish.
In the interview last Thursday, Mr Jantjie said he had been violent in the past "a lot" but declined to provide more details and blamed his violence on his schizophrenia, for which he said he was institutionalised for 19 months in a period that included time during 2006. The cousin and the three friends said the killing of the suspected thieves occurred within a few hundred metres from Mr Jantjie's tidy concrete home near ramshackle dwellings.
The four spoke to the AP on Monday in Mr Jantjie's neighbourhood, and one of the friends described himself as Mr Jantjie's best friend.
An investigation is under way by South African officials to determine who hired Mr Jantjie as the onstage interpreter at the Mandela memorial service and if and how he received security clearance. The officials have not said how long their investigation will take place, and reaching them for updates was difficult Monday, a public holiday in South Africa.