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Johannesburg (AFP) – The South African government formally apologized Friday for any offence caused by the sign language interpreter it hired for Nelson Mandela’s memorial, later exposed as a fake.

“We sincerely apologise to the deaf community and to all South Africans for any offence that may have been suffered,” Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said in a statement.

The country’s junior minister for disabilities, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, admitted on Thursday the government had made a “mistake”, but defended the interpreter.

Enraged sign language experts said that Thamsanqa Jantjie’s signing in front of U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders gathered at Soweto’s Soccer City stadium had amounted to little more than “flapping his arms around”.

Jantjie later blamed his behaviour on a schizophrenic attack.

Contacted by AFP by telephone on Friday, he refused to discuss the incident, saying he was too busy drafting an explanation to the government.

“Yesterday I explained to all the media…(and) today I am busy with the government that want my side of the story,” he said.

Minister Mashatile said parliament would pass a new law early next year to regulate the profession “so that this kind of incident doesn’t happen ever again.”

Bogopane-Zulu said Thursday the interpreter was not fake, but may have had problems with English or was overworked and tired.

South Africa’s deaf organizations, however, said this was not a one-off incident, claiming they had complained to the government about Jantjie before.

AFP Photo/Alexander Joe

Former Navy Secretary Sean O'Keefe

Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Almost 500 national security experts — including 22 four-star military officers — slammed Donald Trump in a public letter released Thursday, calling him unfit for his role as commander in chief and endorsing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The letter, simply addressed "To Our Fellow Citizens," is a bipartisan effort signed by prominent Republicans and Democrats alike who say they "fear" for their country under Trump. Signatories include former Navy Secretary and NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, who served in both Bush administrations, and former Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, and Ash Carter.

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