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The Curious Case of Thamsanqa Jantjie – The ‘fake’ sign language interpreter

South Africa commemorates the passing of Nelson Mandela

South Africa commemorates the passing of Nelson Mandela

So… last Friday I was preparing to leave for Eastern Cape to see what I could cover out in Qunu for Mandela’s funeral, when I asked Polaris what would be better to do?  Go down to Qunu or stay and try and find the fake deaf interpreter and photograph. There had been repeated requested over the week to find and take a few pics of him.  I made the decision it would be best to stay in Joburg and go into Soweto and find his house.  I had an address in Soweto but in Bram Ficsherville where he lives – there are only house numbers… going up to about 16,000 and the general area name.  So I started trawling Soweto on Friday and by around 10pm had found his house to about 200 numbers… the problem is the house numbers suddenly jump by thousands and I was getting frustrated going round in circles… suddenly realising that trawling Soweto – going up and down the same streets might not be in my safest interests in the late hours of the eve, I decided to turn back.

Next day I managed to find his home pretty quickly though… knocking on his door I asked for a few pics of him inside his family home.  His wife, who stood behind, refused outright and I was left sitting outside his home like a paparazzi photog waiting to snap a few shots… I was determined after all the effort to find him I wouldn’t go away empty handed.  Other SA journos turned up and I managed to sneak a few pics when he came to the door… He suddenly got angry when he caught me and came straight for me threatening violence.  I stood my ground and told him I was just doing my job but admittedly was frozen with terror too – there is smthg about being attacked with a camera in hand – as has happened on a few occasions – that makes me feel so much more vulnerable…

The journos there were getting annoyed with me for messing their thing so I decided to lay low and drove off for a bit… I went to the local bottle store and had a drink to calm my nerves and swore would go back, bang on his door and get the pics I should of got before… Instead I drove back – sat outside and decided to wait and see… He suddenly came up from nowhere and started talking fast… I could see he was angry so just listened and sympathised with whatever he was saying – I then told him – I needed some nice pics – all I had were angry shots of him (didn’t have any)… This finally convinced him and his attitude suddenly turned and he invited me in…vanity is usually the key…

I got to photograph him briefly in his family setting.  He showed me round – including showing me the axe he claims he was going to use on me… told me about the book he was writing and what the media attention had done to him and especially his family (for whom I had true sympathy)… there was def high tension in the home – and you could plainly see him and his wife were all near breaking point (would hate to be his wife if he ever blew up the way he did with me)…

He then went on to make some interesting claims.  Firstly – he alleges that he is being protected because the ‘vanished’ interpreter service agency he was employed by is owned by a Government Minister. He also alleges that a chunk of the monies allocated to the company from the event (he claims R2.2mill)  was siphoned off.  And most incredulously he claims that the said Govt Minister(s) – (he used the plural at this point) came to his home and personally threatened to (and I quote) ‘put me in hospital’ if he spoke.

This could all be the ravings of a mad axeman… but then again.. there are a lot of odd factors in this matter that don’t all add up… to get away with such ineptitude on so many public stages for so long (and then get the ultimate gig), there could be a ring of truth… it’s a bit like every pothole in Africa on every recently re-surfaced or constructed road – you just know someone high up has taken a big fat cut of the money allocated along the line leaving behind a sub-standard service…

anyway – we shall wait and see if any of this has a ring of truth  I went back three times and spent a few hours each time outside his home – he had been willing to talk further but couldn’t get him to elaborate before having to return to Cape Town.

Got a long long day today and I know it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Firstly shooting this whole fashion time lapse sequence which basically involves setting up for a normal fashion still, which is hectic enough.. (and makes up the end sequence in the time lapse) and then shoot a time lapse  with the Kessler pod that leads up to your strong final fashion pic scene… had to try n perfect a 3 axis movement yesterday for it… don’t know if it’ll work (I’ll blog more if it does… prob won’t bother my Xmas at least if it doesn’t).. then using the Pod for its first commercial purpose – completely in the dark (even after requests) as to what is required… I suspect they are going to want to do a basic dolly movement and possibly put heavy equipment on the Pod (which has a 19kg limit)… we’ll see.. always up for the challenge – but will protect the gear first and foremost.. and of course there is always a story to tell after if it goes belly up….!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ilse Sales #

    You do get yourself into situations! Please be careful and watch out for yourself. There are people who care about you and want to see you come out of these things alive. Love Ilse


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