Nelson Mandela's former doctor defended his tell-all book before he died, mourners told

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
Former surgeon-general Dr Vejay Ramlakan was given a full military funeral in Durban on Saturday.
Former surgeon-general Dr Vejay Ramlakan was given a full military funeral in Durban on Saturday.
Image: Suthentira Govender

Former surgeon-general of the SA National Defence Force Dr Vejay Ramlakan was “robustly” defending the publication of his tell-all book about statesman Nelson Mandela's final days to the Health Professions Council of SA before his sudden death.

A small group of mourners at Ramlakan's funeral held at the Durban City Hall on Saturday heard during an obituary delivered by Ricky Naidoo how Ramlakan's controversial work Mandela's Last Years was “voluntarily withdrawn” after it had received a “mixed reception”.

“His personal written reflections on the father of the nation, Nelson Mandela, Mandela's Last Years (later voluntarily withdrawn), had a mixed reception, and at the time of his death, Ramlakan was robustly defending the publication of the book at the Health Professions Council of SA,” Naidoo said.

In 2017, the book was taken off bookstore shelves after the Mandela family accused the author of breaching doctor-patient confidentiality and Mandela’s widow‚ Graça Machel‚ threatened to sue him. Madiba died in December 2013.

At his funeral, held with “full military honours”, Ramlakan, 62, was honoured for his contribution as an anti-apartheid activist as well as a medical doctor.

He died on August 27 from a suspected heart attack.

Among those who paid tribute to him were retired politician Mac Maharaj, health minister Zweli Mkhize, defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and his daughter Rosa.

“Vejay loved life. He had a lust for life. He had a streak of cheekiness,” Maharaj said.

Maharaj paid tribute to Ramlakan's three children and his wife Sandra, also a struggle veteran.

“I disagree that the sufferings we endured in the struggle should be seen as sacrifice.

“We made our choices with little regard for the price to be paid by our loved ones. It is they who made the sacrifices. In that spirit I want to recognise Vejay's three children ...

“You are children of the revolution. May you always walk tall.”

Mkhize described Ramlakan as a “humble servant of the people” and a “courageous soldier”.

He also praised Ramlakan's dedication and contribution to the liberation struggle.

“On his passing let us remind all those in positions of power that the struggle cannot be over until we entrench good governance, eliminate corruption, achieve true nonracialism and non-sexism ...

“This what he dedicated his life to.”

Defence minister Mapisa-Nqakula told mourners that she was yet to read Ramlakan's book “which talks a lot about him as the doctor to Tata Madiba”.

She said Ramlakan “had a very special relationship with Madiba”, describing it as “extraordinary”.

Mapisa-Nqakula recalled how “tears were running down Vejay's face” when Mandela died.

“Vejay was so attached to him.”

She said he was “brave and eloquent” and committed to improving military health while he was part of the service.

Ramlakan was cremated at the Clare Estate Crematorium.


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