Mandela’s family ‘aggrieved’ over surgeon’s book

23 July 2017 - 11:09 By Kyle Cowan
Chief Mandla Mandela at Mvezo in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.
Chief Mandla Mandela at Mvezo in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.

Former President Nelson Mandela’s grandson‚ Nkosi  Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela‚ has confirmed the family’s “unequivocal support” of former first lady Graca Machel’s threats to take legal action over a new book detailing the stateman’s final years.

In a statement issued on Saturday‚ Mandela agreed with Machel’s sentiments that former Surgeon-General Dr Vijay Ramlakan’s book ‘Mandela’s Last Years’ constituted an “ethical breach and certainly violates the doctor-patient confidentiality principle”.

In a scathing statement Mandela accuses Ramlakan of violating Mandela’s privacy.

“We are aggrieved as a family that the privilege of administering to President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela afforded to the doctor appears to have been vilely abused‚” the statement read.

“We believe that it is not unreasonable to expect that the sensitivities entrusted to him by the family and those entrusted as custodians of Nkosi Dalibhunga’s (Mandela’s) legacy should not be compromised‚ or used in any manner that may be interpreted as pithy gain‚ or which does a disservice to the legacy and the sanctity of uTatomkhulu’s final moments.

“We are deeply disappointed that the doctor appears to have compromised himself and the man whom he had the privilege to serve.

“We want to assure Mamu Nosizwe (Graca Machel) that she is not alone in taking offence at the apparent violation of Nkosi Dalibhunga’s privacy. We believe that the sentiments that she has expressed find echoes in the hearts of all who love and revered the Father of our nation‚” it concludes.

The statement is the latest in a salvo of condemnation by Machel and others over the book‚ which hit shelves on Monday.

Last week the publisher of the book‚ Penguin Random House‚ said Ramlakan had assured them he received permission from the Mandela family and even handed a draft of the book to a family representative.

The book 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 that internal family politics negatively affected Mandela’s health 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”.

The Department of Defence also distanced itself from the controversial book in a statement on Saturday.

Defence spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said the department “noted and completely distances itself" from media reports about the book.

“The department wishes to explicitly state that all views expressed in the book are those of the author and do not in any way or manner represent the department and the South African Military Health Service.

“The SANDF’s policy on patient-doctor confidentiality is in force and as such the views and patient doctor engagements expressed in the book have not been sanctioned by the senior cadre of the department and the SANDF respectively‚” Dlamini added.

- TimesLIVE