The deaf community in Limpopo is livid, following a video that went viral of a “fake” sign language interpreter translating Police Minister Bheki Cele’s address.
Speaking to broadcaster Newzroom Afrika on Friday, sign language activists Andiswa Gebashe and Ntombi Sikuza said the man in the video should not even be called an interpreter.
The deaf community in Limpopo is angry after a ‘fake’ interpreter was used at another government event. The community says the interpreter’s gestures were “unintelligible”. Sign language activists Andiswa Gebashe and Ntombi Sikuza react to this.
This is not the first time a government event uses a fake interpreter, with the most famous obviously being ‘Bompie’ who even managed to get on stage with some of the world’s most famous and important dignitaries at Nelson Mandela’s memorial.
“If you remember during the memorial service of former president Nelson Mandela, the same thing happened. The government knew because people complained and no course was taken and that is why it is still happening,” said Sikuza.
This still occurs
“It is not the first time that man has been an interpreter, it has happened before and still is. It is just that this time the video went viral within the community.”
She added that the reason the man in the video got away with what he was doing is because of the “screening process” or “recruitment” processes in place.
“The reason he gets away with this is because at the events he is working at, there aren’t deaf people. So, he gets paid and we lose information and that is a violation of our rights.
“The issue is with the companies or agencies that appoint these interpreters and because there isn’t a system that gets followed, apart from who is the cheapest interpreter and they take them.
Quality is compromised
“So, these are the results of cheap over quality. He is not the only one, there are so many interpreters who do this and because there isn’t a place we can voice this and for us to complain. Most officials also don’t know sign language so there is no way of knowing whether it is a fake or qualified interpreter,” she said.
Sikuza said with sign language in the process of being made an official language, perhaps things would change for the better.
“But maybe when sign language becomes an official South African language, there will be regulations that will that will stipulate that if someone falsely interprets, they will be charged.”
Make sign language official
“Making sign language an official language would help a lot because as it stands, it feels like even bodies that are meant to promote and protect the language don’t even have powers. It is the very government that infringe on this right.”
On 11 December 2013, the Mail & Guardian reported that the sign language interpreter who stood next to the podium and interpreted what heads of states, religious leaders and other celebrated figures had to say about Nelson Mandela at his memorial service was a fake interpreter, according to angry members of the international deaf community.