Mandela was the ‘main victim’ of his doctor's controversial book‚ says Nelson Mandela Foundation

27 July 2017 - 18:09
By Matthew Savides
Nelson Mandela.
Image: SIPHIWE SIBEKO Nelson Mandela.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has torn into Madiba’s former doctor over his book Mandela’s Last Years‚ saying that Dr Vejay Ramlakan’s book “demonstrates both ignorance and prejudice” and overstepped the mark.

In a statement issued on Thursday evening‚ the foundation said it welcomed the decision by publisher Penguin Random House on Monday to withdraw the book. It was a decision that followed criticism by Mandela’s widow‚ Graca Machel‚ and members of the Mandela family – most of the claims around Ramlakan’s alleged breach of patient-doctor confidentiality.

The foundation said it was a difficult decision to support the pulling of the book from the shelves.

“It is not an easy thing for us to support the withdrawal of a book. We oppose censorship in principle and work hard at avoiding the role of gatekeeper. Madiba repeatedly communicated to us an imperative not to be tripped up by a desire to protect him.

“Always‚ however‚ there are limits. And Mandela’s Last Years is beyond them‚” it said.

It continued that it welcomed different interpretations of Mandela’s life – whether in print or on screen – but that there were requirements for those who wished to do so.

“While the Foundation has no authority over those who represent the life and times of Madiba through publications‚ we welcome new interpretations and fresh stories related to the life and times of Nelson Mandela. Madiba constantly reminded the Foundation that he wanted us to promote spaces for multiple voices.

“However‚ those who choose to do so must respect a medley of legal and ethical requirements. The author of Mandela’s Last Years demonstrably failed in this regard‚” the statement said.

The foundation was also unhappy that Ramlakan‚ a former surgeon-general of the SA National Defence Force‚ did not make contact or seek input from them.

“The author assumes the position of the impartial‚ objective and ethical scientific observer. And yet‚ detailed analysis of the book reveals the extent to which partiality‚ ignorance and disregard for confidentiality shape his narrative.

“Madiba is the main victim. But there are many others‚ both institutional and individual. As an organisation mandated by Madiba to do memory work rooted in authentic‚ reliable and comprehensive historical evidence‚ we have been compelled to document for our archive the book’s inaccuracies‚ falsehoods and invasions of privacy. The book’s hallmark‚ in our view‚ is a pattern of disclosure which uses the privilege of private space to discredit certain people and promote others‚” the statement reads.

It also highlights four errors in the book‚ namely:

• “For the author‚ Mrs Machel was ‘entrenched in the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation’ (p.166). In fact‚ she had a personal office at the Foundation but no formal role or responsibility in relation to our work.

• “He speaks with great authority on what he calls the Foundation’s ‘downgrading’ of Zelda la Grange in 2012 (pp.92-93). This without seeking a view either from us or from her.

• “His assignation of full responsibility to the Foundation for the 2011 ‘routine tests’ media release (a ‘blunder’‚ p.65) gives no sense of the complexity everyone around Madiba at the time was negotiating.

• “He insinuates that the Foundation supported Madiba’s appearance at the 2010 football World Cup final as ‘an opportunity for fundraising’ (p.37). This is an outrageous notion‚ not surprisingly unsubstantiated.”

- TimesLIVE