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Fake signer at Mandela event says he hallucinated, saw ‘angels’

Thamsanqa Jantjie gesticulates at his home during an interview with the Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday. Jantjie, the man accused of faking sign interpretation next to world leaders at Nelson Mandela's memorial, told a local newspaper that he was hallucinating and hearing voices. AP photo

Thamsanqa Jantjie gesticulates at his home during an interview with the Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thursday. Jantjie, the man accused of faking sign interpretation next to world leaders at Nelson Mandela's memorial, told a local newspaper that he was hallucinating and hearing voices. AP photo

JOHANNESBURG — The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial says he suffers from schizophrenia and hallucinated and saw angels while gesturing incoherently just 3 feet away from President Barack Obama and other world leaders, outraging deaf people worldwide who said his signs amounted to gibberish.

South African officials scrambled Thursday to explain what vetting process, if any, the signer underwent for his security clearance.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said on Thursday that he began hallucinating while onstage in front of tens of thousands of people, but tried not to panic because there were “armed policemen around me.” Jantjie added that he has schizophrenia and was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for 19 months.

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