Publisher cans Mandela book in the face of legal action
PENGUIN Random House South Africa acted swiftly yesterday to withdraw Dr Vejay Ramlakan’s book as legal action looms.
This came after the executors of Nelson Mandela’s estate – Justice Dikgang Moseneke, advocate George Bizos and Judge Themba Sangoni – stepped in to consider laying a complaint with the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) and the SANDF. They argued that Ramlakan broke the patient-doctor confidentiality laws and invaded the late statesman’s privacy.
Graça Machel, his widow, and his grandson Mandla Mandela have also slammed the book.
Penguin Random House made a U-turn after last week’s assertion by the publisher that they would not withdraw the book.
But yesterday, the publisher said this was done out of respect for the Mandela family. Machel had threatened to haul the publishers to court if the book went on sale.
The book – Mandela’s Last Years – was written by Mandela’s physician, Ramlakan, detailing Mandela’s final moments before he died.
In a statement, Surita Joubert said: “The book was meant to portray Nelson Mandela’s courage and strength up to the very end of his life and was in no way intended to be disrespectful.
“However, given the statements from his family members, we have decided to withdraw the book.”
If Machel and Madiba’s executors pursue the legal route, Ramlakan could be struck off the role if he loses the case.
Some of the claims made in the book are that it was Madiba’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who was at Mandela’s deathbed and not Machel, who he was married to at the time.
The author also claimed negative family dynamics had put a strain on Mandela’s health.
Ramlakan, who claimed he had permission from the family to publish the material, also said doctors were worried that Mandela had died when he stopped breathing seven months before his death in December 2013.
Mandla said the family was “delighted” about the withdrawal. He said the family still did not know who had given Ramlakan permission to publish the book.
Mandla said: “We want to appeal, in the name of transparency, that the name of the family member be disclosed so that we can verify and deal with this matter.”
He said he hoped the withdrawal of the book served as a deterrent for people wanting to benefit unduly from his family’s name.
“The private and personal disclosures made in the book would have been a sad day in which profit triumphed over dignity, honour and respect. We thank Penguin for acting with sagacity and upholding the final wishes of one who gave so much to the world,” Mandla said.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Sello Hatang also criticised the book, saying it should not have been published in the first place. Hatang said while the foundation welcomed the withdrawal, they were analysing it for inaccuracies.
“The first inaccuracy we picked up was that the author claimed that the foundation pushed hard for him (Madiba) to attend the opening of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. This is not true. We advised against it, but it was not our decision to make,” Hatang said. “It was a decision that Madiba and his family made and it wasn’t for us to make.”
Hatang also rejected the claim that Machel worked for the foundation when Mandela’s health deteriorated.
“Graça Machel has never been employed by the foundation and she is not a trustee. She occasionally gave speeches, but never worked for the foundation. We find that the book was based on ignorance and we intend on unearthing the inaccuracies it contains,” he said.
The executors of Mandela’s estate
Madiba trustees: author broke medical, privacy law
have now threatened to report Ramlakan, a retired military doctor, to the SANDF for “unlawful conduct” and to the HPCSA.
The Department of Defence said it had completely distanced itself from the book.
LAWSUIT LOOMS: Author Dr Vejay Ramlakan was Mandela’s doctor.