JOHANNESBURG, July 24 – The sale of a book detailing Nelson Mandela’s last days has been halted and copies taken off book store shelves, publishers Penguin Random House said on Monday.
The publishers said they withdrew the book, titled ‘Mandela’s Last Years’, out of respect for the statesman’s family.
”Penguin Random House South Africa (PRHSA) accepted Mandela’s Last Years for publication after the author Vejay Ramlakan advised the publisher that he had been requested by Mr Mandela’s family to publish the book. The book 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.”
A former SA National Defence Force (SANDF) surgeon general, Ramlakan was tasked with overseeing Mandela’s healthcare when the former president was admitted to hospital in 2013. Ramlakan has said he stood by every word in the book, adding that he had the consent of the family to go ahead and pen the book. PRHSA said he had told them he even handed the script of the book to a Mandela family member.
In the book released this month, Ramlakan stated that it was not Mandela’s widow Graca Machel who was by his side when he drew his last breath, but his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The book further revealed previously undiclosed details of Mandela’s health condition, including stating that Mandela had stopped breathing on a certain night in June‚ at least six months before the announcement of the death in December 2013.
Mandela’s family distanced themselves from the book, with his nephew Mandla Mandela threatening legal action against Ramlakan. Mandla said the family and widow Graca Machel were aggrieved by the book, and further accused Ramlakan of violating Mandela’s privacy entrusted to him as a doctor.
In a scathing statement released last week, Machel said: ”I condemn Vejay Ramlakan’s book Mandela’s Last Years in the strongest terms. It is an affront to and an assault on the trust and dignity of my late husband‚ President Nelson Mandela. It breaches the doctor–patient relationship of confidentiality and I am taking legal advice on whether to institute legal proceedings against the author and its publisher.”
The SANDF also distanced itself from the book, adding that it did not represent its views and that of the SA Military Health Service.