Mandela last days book pulled amid row

A controversial new book about the last days of former South African President Nelson Mandela has been withdrawn by the publisher.

Mandela’s family had complained that the book, written by his doctor of almost 10 years, contained personal details.

The publisher said it had pulled the book “out of respect” for the family.

It added that the author had told them Mr Mandela’s family had asked for the book to be written.

The author, Dr Vejay Ramlakan, said he had received permission to write the book Mandela’s Last Years, but did not say specifically from whom.

On Friday, Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel was considering legal action against the book, accusing Dr Ramlakan of breaching patient confidentiality.

The book is reported to expose “undignified” episodes at the end of his life, as well as family squabbles.

Setting the record straight

The withdrawal of the book shows just how much weight the Mandela name still carries years after his demise. Mandela’s widow Graca Machel complained bitterly about aspects in the book. The outcry was supported by other Mandela family members.

This simply means that Mr Mandela’s physician and author of the book Dr Vejay Ramlakan has been isolated. He was adamant that he consulted everyone who needed to be consulted from the family prior to writing the book. Clearly this has backfired now.

One of the details according to the book which did not sit well with Mrs Machel was the assertion that when Mr Mandela took his last breath it was in fact Winnie Mandela’s hand he was holding and not hers.

Sello Hatang, the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, welcomed the withdrawal and challenged the idea that Mrs Machel was doing some work for the foundation when Mr Mandela was on his death bed.

It is now left to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to come out to set the record straight on whether some of these most intimate details about South Africa’s first black president, already in the public domain through the book, are true.

But a statement from Penguin Random House South Africa said it was “meant to portray Nelson Mandela’s courage and strength until the very end of his life and was in no way intended to be disrespectful”.

“However, given the statements from family members we have decided to withdraw the book.”

Dr Ramlakan was Mandela’s physician for nearly 10 years

No further copies of the book are to be issued.

Billed as the “true story of Nelson Mandela’s final journey”, the book was released to coincide with Mandela Day on 18 July. Episodes related by Dr Ramlakan in the book include:

  • that an ambulance taking Mandela to hospital in the middle of the night broke down in a cloud of smoke and he was forced to wait 30 minutes for a replacement
  • that it was his second wife Winnie, not Graca Machel, who was with him when he died

Source: BBC

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