It all started with Radio2000 news headlines yesterday morning when I left for work that US President Barack Obama’s security had been breached. This only made sense, sort of, a few minutes later when I read a Times report on the alleged security breach.
Titled “Security blunder exposed Obama” and written by Graeme Hosken, the report sought to imply (and by its Obamarised headline) that only the US President’s security had been breached or put at risk. This is despite the bi-line indicating that other “world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, were put at risk at the Nelson Mandela memorial service”.
‘Violent and fake’ interpreter
This comes after government department(s) admitted to using the now controversial interpreter, Thamsanqa Jantjie, during former SA and ANC President Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday in Johannesburg.
Government later acknowledged that it mistakenly used Jantjie’s services (or lack thereof?). This was followed by an official apology to his slack interpretation to South Africans all concerned parties who were affected by the apparent nonsense interpretation during the memorial services. The apology, it seems, comes are Jantjie told Associated Press that he had schizophrenia episode.
According to Jantjie, it was during this schizophrenia episode that he “[saw] angels come to the stadium… I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it comes (sic). Sometimes I react violent… Sometimes I will see things that chase me”. For this, he apologised, saying: “I would like to tell everybody that if I’ve offended anyone, please, forgive me”, reported Associated Press, citing Jantjie in its interview with him. While acknowledging his from schizophrenia, which he claimed “is controllable”, he however told CNN that he is under treatment. His admission that he had been violent and or reacted violently also raised eyebrows.
Additionally, eNCA revealed shocking details about Jantjie – who some interpreters said his interpretation at the memorial service was like “doing baseball signs”. It said he is being treated for schizophrenia; faced rape charge(s) in 1994; theft in 1995; housebreaking in 1997; malicious damage to property in 1998; and murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in 2003. The news channel said many of the charges brought against him were dropped, allegedly because he was mentally unfit to stand trial.
eNCA further reported that Jantjie had been acquitted on the rape charge but he was convicted of theft for which he was sentenced to three years in prison. To date, it noted, it’s unclear if he ever spent time in jail. The news channel said Court records showed that Jantjie’s 2003 murder, attempted murder and kidnapping case and other people were referred to the South Gauteng High Court in 2004 and finalised in November 2006, but the court file for the case is empty.
One of the other startling allegations against Jantjie is his submission of false expenses claims of R1.5m a day, according to the Times, quoting one of the Justice Department sources. The source alleged the interpreter is also being investigated for holding a Boksburg, East Rand, court official hostage and threatening him with a brick. Approached for comment (on the allegations), Jantjie told the Times that: “There is lightning … it is raining … it is dangerous.”
Given all these serious allegations against Jantjie and his schizophrenia episode, among others, one wonders how it was possible for him to have had his services sought after by government or however is responsible for that seeing that no government department – not even The Presidency – wants to take responsibility for their incompetence. This is because these revelations could have been discovered had a proper vetting of the interpreter been conducted by the Intelligence Services and of course all the other departments that approved his services.
As Security Services Institute of Security Studies policing researcher Johan Burger indicated at the time: “His level of vetting should have been the highest – everything about his background, including mental health, links to radical groups and criminal records, would have to be checked.”
Despite all these very serious concerns – was it therefore justifiable for the Times to have Obamarised that report on Friday, 13 Dec 2013? Put differently, why did the newspaper choose to Obamarise headline yet in the main excluding alleged security breach of other world leaders, who, too, converged to South Africa to attend Mandela’s memorial service?
Or maybe this is because their (other world leaders’) alleged security breach, if any, did not matter because many of them were not from America – where Obama comes from and therefore were regarded as less significant because they are not from the world’s richest economies?
Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to these questions. However, the Obamarism of news, in my view, could have been avoided had that article been titled “World leaders’ security breached”. But not according to the Times as that might not have sold as many copies of its Friday’s edition as did with that Obamarised headline. Right?