Mandela sign language interpreter
The sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's service has been bombarded with criticism [Reuters].

One of Britain's leading organisations for deaf people has claimed the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial "made no sense" and described his role in the ceremony as "an absolute disgrace."

The Royal Association for Deaf People was speaking to IBTimes UK after the memorial service received a barrage of criticism, due to the apparently incomprehensible sign language being conveyed by the interpreter alongside South African President Jacob Zuma.

The association's chief executive, Dr Jan Sheldon, told our reporter: "Our Chair Roger Beeson and Amanda Casson-Webb, our director of communication services and community development, are both well respected and extremely experienced interpreters in the UK. The interpreter made no sense to either of my colleagues.

"The Royal Association for Deaf People consider this to be absolute disgrace and an insult to deaf people. It represents one of the most public mockeries of deaf people and sign language that we've ever seen."

During the ceremony, which was watched by millions on television, the interpreter was accused of making it up as he went along, with deaf viewers claiming his rapid arm movements and gesticulations made no sense.

One viewer, Francois Deysel said: "Please can someone ask the interpreter to step down from stage, it is embarrassing and making a mockery of our profession."

Deaf activist Alison Bryan tweeted during the ceremony: "Fake interpreter on stage at the Nelson Mandela Memorial Service. Just some random person flapping arms about."

Following the ceremony Cara Loening, a director of a Cape Town sign language institute, told local media: "He is a complete and utter fraud; It was like getting somebody off the street and telling them to flap their hands around.

"This man made a mockery of the service - how disrespectful for what Madiba stood for. Deaf people had very, very little access to information from the memorial service."