Thousands of mourners gathered FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa on Thursday to celebrate the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. Over 90 heads of state appeared at the historic event to pay their respects to the great leader, including President Obama, but one man who made it on stage in front of a global audience is accused of being a fraud.
The signer who stood on stage next to various speakers interpreting their words throughout the memorial service was said to be a “fake” according to the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa.
ABC News reports that the unidentified man “was moving his hands around but there was no meaning in what he used his hands for,” according to Bruno Druchen, the federation’s national director.
Ingrid Parkin, principal of the St. Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg, has also received numerous complaints from the deaf community around the world about the man who appeared to make hand movements “like he’s signing gibberish.”
“This man himself knows he cannot sign and he had the guts to stand on an international stage and do that,” Parkin told the Associated Press, noting the man also did not use facial expression to convey the emotion of the speakers, which is a key element of signing.
The signer, who was outfitted with an official security pass around his neck, even interpreted President Obama’s speech, which experts said looked as if he was “trying to swat a few flies away from his face and his head.”
Watch clips from the “fake” signer at the ceremony below.