Family members gave blessing for doctor's book on Mandela - publisher

21 July 2017 - 16:05 By Suthentira Govender And Matthew Savides
FINAL JOURNEY: Late icon Nelson Mandela's doctor Vejay Ramlakan takes the reader through the final steps of his patient's walk.
FINAL JOURNEY: Late icon Nelson Mandela's doctor Vejay Ramlakan takes the reader through the final steps of his patient's walk.

Reacting to Graca Machel’s threat to sue Nelson Mandela’s doctor for his book Mandela’s Last Years‚ the publisher says the book was written “with the support of family members”.

Penguin Random House released a statement on Friday after Machel’s threat to sue the former surgeon general of the South African Defence Force‚ Vejay Ramlakan‚ who headed Mandela’s military medical team for about seven years.

The book‚ which hit the shelves on Monday‚ contains never-before-published information on Madiba’s various health conditions‚ including that doctors were worried he “might have died” when he stopped breathing on a chilly night in June‚ seven months before his December 2013 death.

Ramlakan also wrote that it was Winnie Madikizela-Mandela‚ and not Machel‚ who was at Mandela’s bedside when he died.

And he wrote that internal family politics negatively affected Mandela’s heath in his final few months.

Ramlakan said he was privileged that the family gave him their blessing for the book.

But Machel said in a statement on Friday: ”I condemn Vejay Ramlakan's book Mandela’s Last Years in the strongest terms. It is an affront to and an assault on the trust and dignity of my late husband‚ President Nelson Mandela. It breaches the doctor–patient relationship of confidentiality and I am taking legal advice on whether to institute legal proceedings against the author and its publisher.”

Machel also said she would consult the executors of Mandela’s will “on how best to protect Madiba’s good name and reputation”.

Ramlakan referred TimesLIVE to Penguin Random House for comment on Machel’s legal threat.

“Penguin Random House South Africa 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‚” said spokesman Surita Joubert. “Their representative was provided with a proof of the book.”

Joubert said Mandela’s Last Years “sets the record straight” about the final years of his life‚ adding that it was written by the head of his medical team‚ who saw what Mandela was experiencing - the medical problems‚ interactions between family members and staff and scrutiny by the press.

“Written with respect and with the support of family members‚ this book completes the story of Nelson Mandela‚” said Joubert. “It reveals a man who showed immense courage‚ not only when he fought for the freedom of millions of people‚ but until the very end of his life.”