Jantjie told the AP last week he has schizophrenia and hallucinated, seeing angels while gesturing incoherently just 3 feet away from President Barack Obama and other world leaders during the Tuesday ceremony at a Soweto stadium. Signing experts said his arm and hand movements were mere gibberish.
In the interview last Thursday, Jantjie said he had been violent in the past “a lot” but declined to provide more details and blamed his violence on his schizophrenia, for which he said he was institutionalized for 19 months in a period that included time during 2006. The cousin and the three friends said the “necklacing” killing of the suspected thieves occurred within a few hundred meters (yards) from Jantjie’s tidy concrete home near ramshackle dwellings.
The four spoke to the AP on Monday in Jantjie’s neighborhood, and one of the friends described himself as Jantjie’s best friend.
Necklacing was a method of killing that was fairly common during the struggle against apartheid by blacks on blacks suspected of aiding the white government or belonging to opposing factions. The method was also used in tribal disputes in the 1980s and 1990s. While people who encounter suspect thieves in South Africa have been known to beat or kill them to mete out punishment, necklacing them has been rare.
An investigation is under way by South African officials to determine who hired Jantjie as the onstage interpreter at the Mandela memorial service and if and how he received security clearance. The officials have not said how long their investigation will take place, and reaching them for updates was difficult Monday, a public holiday in South Africa.
Four government departments involved in organizing the historic memorial service have distanced themselves from the hiring of Jantjie, telling the AP they had no contact with him. A fifth government agency, the Department of Public Works, declined to comment and referred all inquiries about Jantjie to the office of South Africa’s top government spokeswoman, who has only said a “comprehensive report” will eventually be released.
Jantjie told the AP he was hired for the event by an interpretation company that has used him on a freelance basis for years, but government officials have said the owners of the company have disappeared. The address that Jantjie provided for the company was occupied by a different company that is not involved in interpreting for the deaf.
The AP was unable to verify the existence of the school where Jantjie said he studied signing for a year. An online search for the school, which Jantjie said was called Komani and located in Eastern Cape Province, turned up nothing. Advocates for the deaf said they have never heard of the school and said there are no known sign language institutes in the province.
The Star newspaper of Johannesburg reported Friday that Jantjie said he studied sign language interpretation in Britain at the “University of Tecturers.” A British charity that awards qualifications for deaf and deaf-blind communications techniques said it had never heard of the university.