By Pat Warren

FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ) — The phony interpretation of diplomatic speeches at Nelson Mandela’s funeral raises issues long plaguing the deaf community.

Pat Warren reports a native South African at the Maryland School for the Deaf calls the incident hurtful.

It’s hard to believe that with the president and all the dignitaries that took the stage, a man who didn’t know the language and who later reportedly said he was having a schizophrenic episode was allowed on stage.

The intention was good: to interpret the service for the deaf. The execution was, to say the least, flawed. The interpreter’s signs are not even close to what the speakers are saying.

“The man did not know what he was doing. He was just kind of moving his hands in a gesture,” said Stacey Farone, interpreter.

Maryland School for the Deaf Superintendent James Tucker and Alex Simmons, a native of South Africa, talk to WJZ through an interpreter about the incident.

“Unfortunately, there are those who are not very skilled, who aren’t certified, and they’re looking to make a quick buck,” Tucker said.

The interpreter was reportedly paid $85.

“Wilma Newhaudt, who is a Parliament member, she was there. And she was very upset. And she Tweeted, ‘Get him off the stage. It’s rubbish what he’s interpreting,'” Simmons said.

But the message did not get through to the planners.

“At first, the people were very upset and some were angry and I can understand that. It was a life event and they couldn’t access it,” said Simmons. “But as time went by, a lot of people thought about it and they thought ‘What would Nelson Mandela do?’ He would forgive and move on. And hopefully though, they’re hoping that people will learn something from that.”

The lessons moving forward apply to all countries.

“We have to be vigilant. We have to really monitor that all the interpreters are certified, skilled. And you also must understand that sign languages are not universal,” Tucker said.

The South African government is investigating.

A statement from the Secret Service says security measures were in place. Program items such as stage participants or sign language interpreters were the responsibility of the host organizing committee.

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