The wife of former statesman Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, has slammed the newly-released book, Mandela’s Last Years, by his doctor Vejay Ramlakan, and is considering suing.
“I condemn the book in the strongest terms,” Machel said in a statement released by her foundation on Friday. Ramlakan is the country’s former surgeon general and headed Mandela’s medical team till his death in 2013.
This book details the final years of Nelson Mandela up to his final moments where it was his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and not Graca Machel who was present as Madiba breathed his last.
Penguin Random House South Africa (PRHSA) accepted Mandela’s Last Years for publication after the author Vejay Ramlakan advised PRHSA that he had received permission from Mr Mandela’s family to publish the book. Their representative was provided with a proof of the book.
This statement is in response to Graca Machel’s threat to sue the publisher and Ramlakan as reported in the media today.
Written by the head of his medical team, the military doctor who witnessed first-hand what the former president was experiencing, it documents the complex medical challenges, the interactions between family members and staff, the constant scrutiny from the press, and the actions and responses of Mandela himself.
The book shares incidents, moments and the number of medical nightmares that faced the team of doctors that were assigned to maintain the well-being of Nelson Mandela.
In some extracts released to IndianSpice this week, Ramlakan writes about Mandela’s admission to Mediclinic Heart Hospital on June 8, in a “serious condition”.
Machel is adamant on her resolve that the book is a “breach of the doctor-patient relationship of confidentiality”.
“I am taking legal advice on whether to institute legal proceedings against the author and its publisher,” Machel said.
In another extract, the Sowetan reports that Ramlakan lays bare minor disagreements between Mandela’s doctors, staff and his family members.
Machel said she would meet with the executors of Madiba’s will – Justice Dikgang Moseneke, George Bizos SC and Judge Themba Sangoni on how to “best protect Madiba’s good name and reputation”.
Vejay Ramlakan was born in Durban in 1957 and joined Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1977, undergoing military training in South Africa and in Swaziland. He studied medicine at the University of Natal and served as president of the Medical Students Representative Council from 1979 to 1980. He was a founding member of the United Democratic Front, and was involved in MK’s Operation Butterfly in Natal.
From 1987 to 1991 he was imprisoned on Robben Island, and after his release he served as medical commander at the 1991 ANC National Conference, at CODESA, and for the President Mandela Guard. In 1993 and 1994 he served as deputy chief of the MK Health Service and led the MK military health team for integration into the National Peacekeeping Force and later the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). From 2005 to 2013 he served as South Africa’s surgeon general, and in 2011 he was appointed as chief of corporate staff in the SANDF. He retired from the military in 2015.
Read the book extract of Mandela’s Last Years here