JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - The government was confronted Friday with a new and chilling allegation about the bogus sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial: He was reportedly accused of murder 10 years ago.
Officials said they were investigating the revelation by the national eNCA TV news station. But they were unable, or unwilling, to explain why a man who says he is schizophrenic with violent tendencies was allowed to get within arm's length of President Obama and other world leaders.
Investigators probing Thamsanqa Jantjie "will compile a comprehensive report," said Phumla Williams, the top government spokeswoman. But she did not say how long the investigation would take and insisted details would not be released until it was completed.
"We are not going to sweep it under the carpet," Williams said. "We want to own up if there is a mistake, but we don't want to be dishonest" to Jantjie.
An Associated Press reporter found Jantjie at a makeshift bar on the outskirts of Soweto on Friday, not far from his concrete house close to shacks and an illegal dump where goats pick at grass among the trash. Asked about the murder allegation, Jantjie turned and walked away without saying anything.
A day earlier, he told the AP that he had been violent "a lot" in the past, has schizophrenia, and hallucinated during the Mandela memorial that angels were descending into the stadium. He also apologized for his performance, but defended his interpreting as "the best in the world."
His assertion was ridiculed by deaf advocates who said he didn't know how to sign "Mandela" or "thank you."
The outcome of the reported murder case that eNCA said dated from 2003 was unclear, and the television report did not disclose any details.
There were no records of a murder case involving Jantjie at South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, but spokesman Nathi Mncube said that doesn't necessarily mean Jantjie was never a suspect.
"I cannot confirm that the guy was charged, but I cannot deny it, either," he said. "There are no records right now."