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The sign language interpreter at Tuesday's memorial service in Johannesburg for Nelson Mandela may have appeared to have been translating spoken words into gestures during the four hours he appeared on television screens around the world, but he was a fake, observers said Wednesday.
"The so-called 'interpreter' ... at FNB stadium has been dubbed the 'fake interpreter' and the deaf community is in outrage," said Bruno Druchen, national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA), in a statement.
"He is not known by the Deaf Community in South Africa nor by the South African Sign Language interpreters working in the field."
The man showed no facial expressions, which are key in South African sign language, and his hand signals were meaningless, Druchen said. "It is a total mockery of the language," he added.
As outrage over his interpretation skills mounted, mystery over his identity and employment also grew. A spokesman for the ruling African National Congress said the party did not employ him for the event.
The South African government was investigating reports about the poor sign-language interpretation at the memorial, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said.
The service to commemorate the statesman, who died last week at 95, was broadcast to millions of viewers.