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'Fake' sign language interpreter flaps his way through Nelson Mandela memorial

Phyllis Stark

In this picture taken on December 10, 2013 US President Barack Obama delivers a speech next to a sign language interpreter (R) during the memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. South Africa's deaf community on December 11, 2013 accused the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial of being a fake, who had merely flapped his arms around during speeches. Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century, died in Johannesburg on December 5 at age 95. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: Image by AFP/Getty Images

'Fake' sign language interpreter flaps his way through Nelson Mandela memorial

By Phyllis Stark. CREATED Dec 11, 2013

 The sign language interpreter stationed in a prominent place on stage next to President Obama and other dignitaries at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela this week is being called a fraud. The New York Times and multiple other sources are reporting that the man who "signed" his way through the state funeral in South Africa Tuesday was, in fact, merely "flapping his arms and gesticulating in what was supposed to be sign language for the hearing-impaired," the Times reports. Sign language experts are calling him an imposter, and expressing outrage at the man's utter lack of signing skills.

During the memorial, the still-unidentified man was seen by the audience of 93,000 attending the service at a soccer stadium in Soweto, and by hundreds of millions more television viewers.
According to the Times, "More than 24 hours later, the South African government was still at a loss to explain how the impostor, whose identity remained a mystery, had not only breached security checks but even got the sign-language job."