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Fresh claims against 'fake' interpreter

Jantjie allegedly defrauded the justice dept of over R1m and held a colleague hostage with a brick.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, the man at the centre of controversy after his fake sign language interpretation during Nelson Mandela's memorial on 10 December. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - Eyewitness News has learnt that a fraud investigation against controversial sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie fell apart after the main witness was suspended and the investigating officer threatened.

Government is yet to comment on the investigation including claims he allegedly defrauded the justice department of over R1 million and held a colleague hostage with a brick.

Jantjie, who admits he is receiving treatment for schizophrenia, previously worked as a court interpreter in Boksburg.

He was investigated by the Department of Justice for allegedly submitting fraudulent travel invoices in which he claimed over a R1 million for daily trips he never made from Nelspruit to Johannesburg in a BMW he didn't own, and for accommodation he never used.

Those close to the probe say that while the investigation was completed and a charge sheet drawn up, the case fell apart after the main witness against Jantjie was suspended.

The investigating officer reportedly received several threats and when he resisted, he was pulled off the matter.

Jantjie resigned before his disciplinary hearing was concluded.

There are also claims that the former court interpreter was prone to violence and once held a colleague hostage with a brick.

The justice department isn't commenting on the investigation.

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.

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.

POLICE ATTEMPT TO COMMIT JANTJIE

Yesterday, Jantjie refused to accompany police officers to the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital.

When two policemen arrived at his Braamfisherville home in Soweto he refused to leave with them.

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.

While negotiating with the police, he continued to claim that he's done nothing wrong.

The officers from Dobsonville were polite and did not intimidate him, leaving after he refused to go.

Jantjie says he had a spell on Tuesday and was not himself, while his wife says he hasn't been well since Sunday.

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

'DON'T BE EMBARRASSED'

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

Speaking in Auckland Park on Thursday, she said the country shouldn't be embarrassed over the debacle.

Bogopane-Zulu said Jantjie's work was not up to standard, but that South Africans must not feel humiliated.

She said the nation should rather be proud as a country for trying to improve the service to the deaf community.

Bogopane-Zulu said 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 Jantjie 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 department made some enquiries, the company simply disappeared.