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SAfrica: 'Mistake' made hiring Mandela interpreter

Thursday - 12/12/2013, 8:31am  ET

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- A South African deputy Cabinet minister says "a mistake happened" in the hiring of a sign language interpreter for the Nelson Mandela memorial service who experts say was signing gibberish on stage next to world leaders.

The Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu) said Thursday that government officials have tried to track down the company that provided Thamsanqa Jantjie (tam-SAHNG-kah shawn-TEE-leh) but that they "have vanished into thin air."

The deputy minister apologized to deaf people offended around the world by what they say was the interpreter's incomprehensible signing.

She says an investigation is under way to determine how the interpreter received a security clearance.

Jantjie stood gesticulating three-feet from U.S. President Barack Obama and others who spoke at the ceremony that was broadcast around the world. He tells The Associated Press he had visions of angels coming into the stadium and was trying not to panic because he was surrounded by armed policemen.

Jantjie insists he was doing proper sign-language interpretation of the speeches, but also apologized for his performance.

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APPHOTO TH176: President Barack Obama delivers his speech next to a sign language interpreter during a memorial service at FNB Stadium in honor of Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 in Soweto, near Johannesburg. The national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa says a man who provided sign language interpretation on stage for Nelson Mandela's memorial service in a soccer stadium was a "fake."(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) (10 Dec 2013)

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APPHOTO TH171: President Barack Obama looks down as he stands next to the sign language interpreter as he makes his speech at the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. South Africa's deaf federation said on Wednesday that the interpreter on stage for Mandela memorial was a 'fake', (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (10 Dec 2013)

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APPHOTO TH152: Thamsanqa Jantjie gestures at his home during an interview with the Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa,Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Jantjie, the man accused of faking sign interpretation next to world leaders at Nelson Mandela's memorial, told a local newspaper that he was hallucinating and hearing voices. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) (12 Dec 2013)

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APPHOTO TH149: Thamsanqa Jantjie gesticulates at his home during an interview with the Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa,Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Jantjie, the man accused of faking sign interpretation next to world leaders at Nelson Mandela's memorial, told a local newspaper that he was hallucinating and hearing voices. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) (12 Dec 2013)

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APPHOTO TH155: Thamsanqa Jantjie gestures at his home during an interview with the Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa,Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Jantjie, the man accused of faking sign interpretation next to world leaders at Nelson Mandela's memorial, told a local newspaper that he was hallucinating and hearing voices. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi) (12 Dec 2013)

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