THE “fake” interpreter, who made international headlines for his unintelligible sign language at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, is an compulsive liar who dropped out of primary school.
He twice tried to register at both high school and technikon using fake report cards, but was caught out.
He has not only admitted to be battling with schizophrenia, but Thamsanqa Dyantyi dropped out of primary school only to return to his home town claiming to be a doctor.
Thamsanqa Dyantyi yesterday denied being a “fake”, and claims instead he is schizophrenic.
He said he was having a schizophrenic episode on the day he shared a stage with world leaders like US President Barack Obama, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, Cuban president Raul Castro Ruz and Brazil president Dilma Rousseff and Mandela family members.
The Daily Dispatch yesterday traced his relatives and former teachers, who all revealed that Dyantyi had dropped out of primary school in 1997. Some said he allegedly faked a Standard 5 (now Grade 7) report card to enter high school. But he did not succeed.
They told of how Dyantyi, who grew up in Phelandaba, Bloemfontein, would disappear and return years later claiming to be a teacher and then again a doctor and later a teacher.
Dyantyi, who signed for dignitaries during the Tuesday memorial, made international headlines amid allegations that his sign language interpretations were unintelligible.
His former school principal Sibongile Khuselo, who is also his cousin, said there are no records of Bompie, as Dyantyi is affectionately known, registering at any high school after dropping out of Nozala Primary School in 1997.
Khuselo confirmed yesterday that Dyantyi never went beyond primary school.
He recalled teaching Dyantyi when he was doing Standard 4, and that was the last time he saw his cousin in school uniform.
The man reportedly left for Johannesburg four years ago.
“I don’t remember him going any further than primary school,” said Khuselo.
The teacher when he identified him (Dyantyi), became deeply concerned about the security risk the "fake" interpreter posed.
It is still not clear how Dyantyi was hired for the occasion. The government yesterday would only say that public concerns about Dyantyi had been noted.
Dyantyi has been used as an interpreter at several high-profile occasions before, including the ANC centenary celebrations in January last year.
The ANC has washed its hands of the controversy, saying the memorial was a government event.
Dyantyi marred Mandela's memorial on Tuesday in the presence of the world’s great statesmen like United State’s Bark Obama, Raul Castro of Cuba, Li Yuanchao of China and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
Deaf Federation of South Africa national director Bruno Druchen issued a statement on Wednesday, saying the global deaf community “is in outrage” as they could not make sense of what Dyantyi was translating during the Nelson Mandela memorial.
“This man is not in fact a recognised, professional South African Sign Language Interpreter.
He is not known by the deaf community in South Africa nor by the South African Sign Language interpreters working in the field,” Druchen said.
The United States Embassy spokesman Jack Hillmeyer said yesterday: “We are aware but have no comment at this time.”
But Dyantyi denied he was a “fake interpreter”, admitting only to being schizophrenic.
The Dispatch contacted Dyantyi, who promised to call back, but never did.
But in an earlier interview with Cape Talk Radio yesterday morning, before going into hiding, Dyantyi said he had the required papers to show that he was fit for the job.
“Absolutely, I believe I am a qualified interpreter. If they say I was not qualifying, who was qualifying in that event? And was there no one to interpret at that event?
“If I did not go, there would not be any person to do the job. Is it wrong for me to accept this job, which I presented to the best of my ability? And that was the best of my ability,” Dyantyi said on the radio interview.
But when asked where he got his qualifications, he said: “I’ve received various training of sign language. I’m not here to give my CV. If you want my CV, you can go to the company that hired me.”
He blamed his condition for him loosing focus after standing for hours as there was no one to relieve him.
“Yes I schizophrenic, but I do not know who gave you that information because it is my medical condition.
“The situation was very, very difficult for me. I was too much excited. I became very happy to find myself that it is me who is conducting the interpretation in such a big event. When I get happy I get a breakdown sometimes,” said Dyantyi.
Khuselo’s wife Nomzwakhe, 43, arrived at Phelandaba, Bloemfontein in 1999. At the time Dyantyi was already out of school.
She said he left Bloemfontein four years ago, only to return last year claiming to be a doctor. “One day he said he was a doctor but again says he is a teacher. I think Bompie is very ambitious, but unfortunately he dropped out very early at school.
“What is the use of dreaming to become a doctor when you were not patient enough to even go to a high school?
“Maybe he managed to be whatever he is since he left for Johannesburg four years ago. I don’t know. He has never had any job while in Bloemfontein,” said Nomzwakhe.
Another of his former teachers, who asked not be identified, said when he recognised him on television during Tuesday’s memorial for Mandela he so was shocked.
The teacher who claimed to have taught Dyantyi in Standard 4 at Nozala Primary, said Dyantyi was a fraudster.
“He’s not a good boy, he’s a very dodgy character and can’t be trusted. When he speaks, he speaks falsehoods,” the teacher said. — firstname.lastname@example.org/ Additional reporting by Michelle Solomon