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Madiba's doctor sheds light on family politics

By Moipone Malefane | 2017-07-18 12:53:28.0

Minor disagreements between former president Nelson Mandela's doctors, staff and his family members are laid bare in the book detailing his health journey.

Minor disagreements between former president Nelson Mandela's doctors, staff and his family members are laid bare in the book detailing his health journey.

The book, which hit stores yesterday, is written by his doctor Vejay Ramlakan.

The book, titled Mandela's Last Years, details how his finances had to be discussed as his health was deteriorating.

Ramlakan wrote he chose to write to President Jacob Zuma about Mandela's personal matters.

"But of more urgent concern was an allocation of signing powers so that bills could be paid, especially since the bank could no longer recognise Mandela's signature.

"At a meeting that included advocate George Bizos - Mandela's long-time lawyer, Ndaba Mandela - his grandson - became so upset by what was being proposed that he stormed out."

Without giving too many details, he added the family had to solve its dilemmas.

"I began to feel that we were no longer purely Madiba's healthcare providers, but also arbitrators in family matters.

"It was a decidedly uncomfortable position to be in - one that I always chose to avoid, if possible," he wrote.

He said in his report to the Presidency he stated Mandela should be under medical supervision at all times and that this should take priority over all other matters.

He also requested that visiting hours at his home should be strictly adhered to and monitored.

He further requested that Mandela's food should be sanctioned by a dietician and he should be on a special diet.

The book also revealed that as Mandela's health deteriorated, there were differences between the family members, the staff and the team on some decisions that had to be taken, especially on who should visit.

Ramlakan said when he learnt that Mamphela Ramphele, who at the time was forming Agang , had visited that meant protocol was broken.

"This usually happened when some of Madiba's former employees smuggled in guests.

"They would be in the house on other business and would 'pop in' simply to say hello while Madiba was downstairs.

"This had been the case with Dr Ramphele. It was extremely difficult for us - the military - not to be seen as Mandela's gatekeepers, while simultaneously trying to enforce conditions that had been fully agreed to by family and staff."

He said on that day, Mandela was not well enough to be taken into the garden for short spells.

He also said when the ANC hierarchy asked to meet with him, they agreed.

"He duly spent an hour with the top three leaders of the party, and although he dozed off from time to time, he was clearly interested in the discussion and strong enough to agree to a photo shoot."

These, according to the book, led to his eldest daughter Makaziwe Mandela requesting that if her father was well enough for a photo shoot, could he not go home to Qunu.

"But flying him to Qunu would have been a complete impossibility," Ramlakan wrote.