The owners of the firm which supplied a “fake” sign language interpreter to the Mandela memorial event have vanished, a South African minister has said.
Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu apologised to the deaf community for the poor quality of interpretation given by Thamsanqa Dyantyi from SA Interpreters.
“He is Xhosa speaking. The English was a bit too much for him,” she said.
Mr Dyantyi himself has blamed his flawed interpretation on a schizophrenic episode.
During the memorial, Mr Dyantyi was employed to stand on the stage next to key speakers such as US President Barack Obama and Mr Mandela’s grandchildren, translating their eulogies.
But the minister denied there was a security issue, saying the interpreter had been properly accredited.
Mr Mandela died last week at the age of 95, and will be buried on Sunday.
His body is currently lying in state in Pretoria, with thousands queuing to pay their respects.
Ever since Tuesday’s event, pressure has been mounting on the government to explain why Mr Dyantyi was hired for such an important event.
During a press conference, Ms Bogopane-Zulu, the deputy minister for women, children and people with disabilities, admitted that a mistake had been made but said there was no reason for the country to be embarrassed.
“There are as many as a hundred sign language dialects,” she said, to explain the difficulties he faced.
“He started well and later he became tired. Guidelines say we must switch interpreters every 20 minutes.”
She did not rule out employing him in some circumstances again.
But she accused Mr Dyantyi’s employers, SA Interpreters, of being cheats, and said the company’s directors had now vanished into thin air.