On a stage in which the world’s leaders were memorializing a man – Nelson Mandela – who captivated the globe, a previously unknown and silent interpreter for the deaf stole the spotlight.
And for good reason: The story just gets curiouser and curiouser.
Thamsanqa Jantjie first gained notoriety after experts began claiming he wasn’t signing the world leaders’ speeches in any language they could detect. American media began lampooning him as a goofy fake.
Later, however, he admitted he has schizophrenia and was even hallucinating as the world leaders spoke, hearing voices and imagining that angels were descending.
It’s odd enough that someone with no discernible signing skills, and an admitted violent past, could get so close to so many leaders – including the president of the United States, whom one would think would be the most closely guarded man in the world.
Where was the Secret Service? You realize, of course, that they’d check you out pretty darn thoroughly were you in that position.
But it gets even better: Reports now indicate a cousin and friends of his say Jantjie was once in a group that burned two men by putting tires around their necks and setting them ablaze.
He never stood trial for the killings because he wasn’t mentally fit to, his acquaintances told the Associated Press.
Nor was this the first time his signing has been called into question.
“The Deaf Federation of South Africa has said it filed a complaint ... about bogus signing by Jantjie at a previous event where South African President Jacob Zuma was present,” the Associated Press wrote.
What in the world?
How could someone like this get so close and chummy with so many world leaders? Did no one do a background check on this guy?
What if an assassin had made it to Jantjie’s prime spot?
Some folks wanted to focus on the “selfie” – the self portrait taken with a cell phone – that President Obama took with another world leader. It caused a stir in American media, which is pretty silly. It was just a human moment between two people who happen to be in the trenches of history. Leave it be.
What we don’t understand is how the Secret Service allowed someone so odd, allegedly fake and potentially dangerous so close to our president. It matters not that South African authorities are responsible; so must the Secret Service be, for this most powerful and controversial of the world’s leaders.
Forget the silliness – including the meaningless criticism of the president’s handshake with Raul Castro of Cuba. What’s he supposed to do, slap him upside the face?
We want to know how such a blatant security breach occurred on such a conspicuous stage.
There needs to be accountability in South Africa and Washington.