Could it be that Thamsanqa Jantjie the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg in 2013, was the most misunderstood man in the world?

Could it be that the translation he was giving was a form unique to a country in the hinterlands of Europe?

Or was his version really what the world press described it to be – fake?

Such a question came to mind during our conversation with of one of South Africa’s deaf motorists Nenio Mbazima, an author, motivational speaker and businessman.

Nenio opened a door most of us were hitherto not aware of. He told us that whilst most countries have a Sign Language that is uniform, that was not the case for South Africa.

“Due to the apartheid past, Sign Language in South Africa is different from town to town. 

It is common to find Deaf people of Soweto signing very differently to Deaf people of Randburg, although, we do understand each other, save a few times where we pause to ask the meaning of a certain sign,” he said.
Nenio said the difference in Sign Language from place to place, is what causes the delay of getting the language recognised as a 12th official language of South Africa.

“Deaf leaders are working hard to correct that.”

So next time we turn to the Jantjie story to spice up conversations over sundowners, let cut the man some slack and give him just a teeny-weeny benefit of doubt.

We might want to pause and ponder whether or not he may, or may not, have been tuned-in to a dialect of some island deep in the Mediterranean.

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