TODAY   |  December 12, 2013

Mandela memorial interpreter admits schizophrenia

The “fake” sign language interpreter who stood mere feet from several world leaders during Nelson Mandela’s memorial says he suffered a schizophrenic episode on the stage. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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>> our top story. a new interview with the man who ired people for faking sign language interpretation at nelson mandela 's memorial service . nbc's ron allen is in pretoria, south africa with the story. ron, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning savannah, this fiasco could perhaps not come at a worst time for the late nelson mandela , but the interpreter at the memorial service the other day who claim is a complete fraud has emerged today to try and explain his bizarre behavior. this morning the interpreter at the center of the nelson mandela controversy spoke out, defending his performance.

>> i have been doing it so many years.

>> how many years.

>> not a question.

>> reporter: in a series of interview, he says he is currently a patient receiving treatment for schizophrenia, that he had a breakdown during the elent.

>> i was excited, i started hearing things in my ears.

>> reporter: the interpreter tells nbc news, he has been hospitalized because of his schizophrenia, which also led him to be violent in the past.

>> sometimes i will edge on violence and all that place.

>> reporter: it happened as the world listened to president obama and other world leaders eulogize nelson mandela . deaf and hearing impaired were watching him and they say understanding nothing. on south african television, who uses its own interpreter for the dove, it's apparent. outrage on twitter. please get rid of this clown interpreter. at another event he was there a year ago. professionals reviewed his work and say he is a complete fraud.

>> i couldn't watch what he would create out of it. so it's very inaccurate.

>> reporter: she says one word she did recognize was help.

>> did you hear about the sign language interpreter?

>> reporter: it got the attention of the late night comics.

>> watch what he did here, it's quite obvious.

>> reporter: security experts say it's no joking matter.

>> this should never happen again, nowhere in the world with a world leader. if there needs to be someone signing next to the world leader, it should be a video.

>> reporter: meanwhile, this morning, new questions of what happened still linger. the south african government is responsible for the interpreter and hired him. this morning a spokesperson says a huge mistake was, in fact, made. an investigation is under way as south africa tries to focus on its long farewell to nelson mandela . savannah.

>> ron allen , what a story. thank you very much.

>> i think the problem is in fact, if he is mentally ill , there should be no stigma. the problem he admits in the past he has been violent as a part of this schizophrenia, then, something, you can't let a person like that next to world lead.

>> steps away from world leaders . you wonder what kind of background check, if any, was done.