‘Mandela’s Last Years’ written with compassion
I READ Lieutenant-General Vejaynand Ramlakan’s book last week and enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong! I didn’t get pleasure out of reading about Madiba’s suffering – the opposite is true: it was heart breaking to re-live the death of our icon.
The book goes further than shallow sensationalism and, for the first time, publicly explains and demonstrates the enormous willpower and mental strength Madiba had, even in his last years.
He was a fighter right up until the end and enjoyed life and being alive. His family and his doctors did their best to allow him to have a dignified life until he passed away.
It is not important who held his hand in the last moment. It was, however, vital he didn’t die alone and that those who he loved most were there when he took his last breath.
I couldn’t find any sensitive or degrading facts in the book. The fact that the ambulance broke down on its way to the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria in June 2013 came out two weeks later.
Anyone with basic knowledge in medicine would know Madiba at that time had a permcath and would probably have been tube fed through the nose and sometimes even put on a ventilator. Does that take away his dignity? Well, then we should remove all dialysis and ventilation machines from hospitals.
Only once did the author reveal blood pressure and pulse rate data. Madiba himself had recorded these from time to time during his prison years and even published them later (Conversations with Myself 2010).
Dignity is important but it isn’t a moral constant but a time dependent variable. What might have been regarded as sacrilegious or criminal at the time, has centuries or even decades later been approved as a historically or legally valuable act of research.
Just think of the exhumation of Tycho Brahe’s remains in Prague 2010 and Pablo Neruda’s remains on the Isla Negra in 2013, to prove they might have been poisoned (they weren’t). A couple of weeks ago, Salvador Dalí’s embalmed body has been exhumed to get evidence in a paternity trial.
Mandela’s Last Years is a book written with compassion, great admiration and affection for Madiba. It’s a pity it is now denied a well-deserved wider circulation. Hopefully the public and university libraries got their copies in time. Sandton
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