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deafSouth Africa’s deaf federation is claiming that the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela‘s memorial service was in fact a phony.  Concerns were raised by deaf people watching the memorial held on Tuesday for the former South African president and anti-apartheid icon,  according to Agence France-Presse.

According to Bruno Druchen, who is deaf and is also the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, the unidentified interpreter, who stood alongside the throngs of global dignitaries attending the service held in Johannesburg, including President Barack Obama, “was moving his hands around but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for,” reports the Daily Mail.

Cara Leoning, the director of Sign Language and Development in Cape Town told Agence France-Presse, that the sign language “expert” was a “complete fraud.”  Leoning went on to state that during Obama’s speech, the interpreter appeared as if  he were “trying to swat a few flies away from his face and head.”

South African sign language covers all of the country’s 11 official languages, and three sign language experts have concluded that the sign interpreter was not signing in South African or American languages.

Leoning told the Agence France-Presse that he and his organization members have been on a mad hunt trying to track down the alleged interpreter but so far, their efforts have been unsuccessful: “We can’t find a name or anything.  The organizations who have accredited interpreters do not know him at all.”

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