Known for her role in the series Switched at Birth, Matlin told CNN that she initially was happy to see an interpreter at the Mandela memorial.
“I looked at him a little bit longer and I kept thinking, this is hard, I’ve been to South Africa before and I can understand some South African sign language… it was almost like he was doing baseball signs. I was appalled.”
Matlin said she knew that at any moment there would be an ‘explosion’ about it and that it was clear from his lack of facial expression he didn’t know sign language.
Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town director Cara Loening has said the interpreter is a ‘utter fraud’ and said not one of his signs had anything to do with sign language.
“It was like getting somebody off the street and telling them to flap their hands around,” said Loening. “This man made a mockery of the service. How disrespectful for what Madiba stood for.”
Government has said it is looking into the matter, however Thamsanqa Jantjies told the Cape Times he suffered a schizophrenic episode and claims he lost concentration, started hearing voices and began hallucinating.
He later apologised for his actions saying he was ‘alone in a dangerous situation’ and that there was nothing he could do.