Penguin Random House South Africa (PRHSA) has decided to immediately withdraw the book Mandela’s Last Years from the trade, and no further copies will be issued. The publisher has done so out of respect for the late Mr Mandela’s family.
Nelson Mandela’s executors and his grandson, Mandla, have distanced themselves from the recently published book, ‘Mandela’s Last Years‘.
The book by Mandela’s former doctor, Vejay Ramlakan takes readers into the unknown private moments and medical journey of the former statesman. Advocate George Bizos has indicated that himself and the other two executors “had nothing to do with it”.
Ramlakan claims he received permission to publish the book from the Mandela family but refused to say who gave the go-ahead.
PRHSA accepted Mandela’s Last Years for publication after the author Vejay Ramlakan advised the publisher that he had been requested by Mr Mandela’s family to publish the book. The book was meant to portray Nelson Mandela’s courage and strength until the very end of his life, and was in no way intended to be disrespectful. However, given the statements from family members, we have decided to withdraw the book.
“Mrs [Graça] Machel [Mandela’s widow] is concerned and we are concerned,” said Bizos.
“While the writer says he had permission from one family member, I don’t think any single member has the authority to do that,” said Bizos.
He said the executors intend taking legal action.
According to the Health Professions’ Council of SA, a doctor can circumvent his oath to respect doctor-patient confidentiality, in respect of a deceased patient, only if he has the written consent of the next-of-kin or of the executor of the deceased’s estate
In a statement released yesterday Mandla Mandela said the family was “aggrieved” by Ramlakan’ s book.
He said the family gave its “unequivocal support” to Machel’s threat to take legal action over the book.
Mandela said the privileged relationship Ramlakan had with Mandela “appears to have been vilely abused”.
“We are deeply disappointed that the doctor appears to have compromised himself and the man whom he had the privilege to serve,” Mandela said.
The SA Medical Association has expressed its concern.
“I haven’t read the book but most of us have a sense of unease. Breaching the [code of ethics] has implications,” said the association’s vice-chairman, Mark Sonderup.
“If it is found that [the book] violates principles [of medical ethics], the matter should be reviewed and action taken,” he said.
In a television interview yesterday, Ramlakan again said he was “requested by the family to write the book”.
“I would not like to disclose who requested us because I think it’s irrelevant,” he said.
The publishers said Ramlakan had assured them that he received permission from the Mandela family. The Department of Defence, which employed Ramlakan, has distanced itself from the book.
“The views and patient-doctor engagements expressed in the book have not been sanctioned,” SANDF spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation refused to comment on the matter.