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Police attempt to commit interpreter

Thamsanqa Jantjie refused to accompany officers to the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital.

Sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie translates as ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa leads proceedings at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, FNB Stadium, 10 December 2013. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - Controversial sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie on Thursday refused to accompany police officers to the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital.

Jantjie is accused of making references to prawns and rocking horses instead of displaying what speakers were saying at former president Nelson Mandela's national memorial service at FNB Stadium on Tuesday.

The incident sparked outrage and embarrassment among members of the local and international deaf community.

Madiba passed away last week at the age of 95.

Newspapers, news stations and websites around the world have focused their attention on Jantjie and the fact that government hired him for the event, despite complaints against him.

Jantjie on Thursday confirmed he suffers from schizophrenia and told the New York Times that he saw angels while interpreting for the global dignitaries.

When two policemen arrived at his Braamfisherville home in Soweto a short while ago, he refused to go to the hospital.

Officers waited for Jantjie to finish an interview before telling him they had orders to take him to the facility.

But he told them he would not be dragged away like a coward.

Moments later, Jantjie told Eyewitness News he wanted to first clear his name in order to protect his family.

"I told them that I'm prepared to go to the psychiatric hospital but it's my responsibility to clear up my side of the story."

Jantjie claims he is qualified and has been interpreting for years.

He said he was not himself on the day of the memorial service.

Jantjie's family says they are exhausted and need space.

'DON'T BE EMBARRASSED'

Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu acknowledged Jantjie's made mistakes.

Speaking in Auckland Park on Thursday, she said the country should never be embarrassed.

Bogopane-Zulu says Jantjie's work was not up to standard but that South Africans must not feel humiliation.

Rather, the nation should be proud as a country for trying to improve the service to the deaf community.

She says sign language in South Africa has more than a 100 dialects and this must be taken into consideration before attacking Jantjie's performance.

"He did not sign whatever was expected of him, but I don't think that he committed any crime."

Bogopane-Zulu said the interpreter was just a bit overwhelmed and lost focus.

She also confirmed the interpreter is not an official sign language interpreter but denied her department played any role in his hiring.

The deputy minister further revealed her department tracked down the company Jantjie was registered with.

Bogopane-Zulu said after her ministry made some enquiries, the company simply disappeared.

The debacle has weighed heavily on a nation still mourning the death of its first black president.

Mandela will be buried in his hometown of Qunu on Sunday.