Too Bad to Believe – Deaf Interpreter at Mandela Memorial a FAKE?

In a completely unbelievable turn of events, a man who stood on stage next to some of the most important leaders in the world has turned out to be a fake, an impostor of epic proportions.

As is the custom during most speeches to a large crowd, the people who planned the memorial events in honor of recently deceased South African President Nelson Mandela made sure they had someone there who could interpret for the deaf. Except that they didn’t. I mean they might have thought they did… but the man they had interpreting had NO IDEA what he was saying. Though he seemed pretty confident in his ignorance.

Watch him here.

People in the worldwide deaf community were outraged about the fraud. Apparently, however, this isn’t an isolated incident, as the same man appeared just last year with South African President Jacob Zuma. Deaf members of the audience at that event recorded the “interpreter” and turned the tape in with complaints that he had no idea what he was saying. Somehow, that same man managed to find his way on stage again at the most historic event of the year.

“[He] was moving his hands around, but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for,” Bruno Druchen, the Deaf Federation of South Africa’s national director said Wednesday.

“He didn’t follow any of the grammatical rules and structure of the language. He just invented his signs as he went along,” Delphin Hlungwane, an official South African sign language interpreter at DeafSA, said. “There was zero percent accuracy. He couldn’t even get the basics right. He couldn’t even say thank you.”

Ingrid Parkin, principal of the St. Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg, said she’s received complaints from the deaf community from Canada to China about the man on stage and that his movements look “like he’s signing gibberish.” He also used no facial expression to convey the emotions of the leaders, a key element of sign language interpretation. “This man himself knows he cannot sign and he had the guts to stand on an international stage and do that.”

No word yet on whether or not the man has been found or on what might be proper retribution for his malfeasance. Sadly, you can’t get a “do-over” on such an important event, so he’ll go down in history as the man who ruined the memorial service of a 20th Century icon.


The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Onan Coca

Onan is the Editor-in-Chief at Romulus Marketing and Bravera Holdings. He's also the managing editor at,, and the managing partner at You can read more of his writing at Eagle Rising.
Onan is a graduate of Liberty University (2003) and earned his M.Ed. at Western Governors University in 2012. Onan lives in Atlanta with his wife and their five wonderful children.

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