Controversial new book divides Mandela family

The controversial book about former president Nelson Mandela has widened divisions in his family.


This after Madiba’s grandson Ndaba lashed out at Dr Vejay Ramlakan over his now-recalled book Mandela’s Last Years, saying the former military doctor was a “loser” who was using Madiba’s name to make money.

His comments followed those of Madiba’s widow Graca Machel and another grandson, Mandla, who raised concerns about the book.

But yesterday, his daughter Makaziwe Mandela took a swipe at the two grandsons and Machel, questioning why they were being regarded as the sole representatives of the Mandela family that has more than 30 members.

“Mandla is supporting Graca in relation to the book, and why when he is speaking on the matter do you say that he is representing the Mandela family?” asked Makaziwe.Her daughter Tukwini Mandela also joined the fray yesterday. “If people had a problem with what Dr Ramlakan wrote, why did they not have a problem about what [Mandela’s personal assistant] Zelda (le Grange) wrote in her book?” asked Tukwini yesterday.

Last night, MK Malefane, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s aide in the 1980s, told eNCA that Madikizela-Mandela would not have a problem with Ramlakan’s account of Madiba’s final years.

Ndaba claimed that the family was not consulted over the book as per statements by Ramlakan and the publisher, Penguin Random House.

“The family was not consulted … that is a lie. He should mention who and when he did this consultation.

“I [only] heard from people that read the news about the book. I didn’t know anything about it until then. So my reaction was, ‘oh there goes another person trying make money off my grandfather’. What a loser,” said Ndaba in a WhatsApp conversation.

Mandela’s eldest granddaughter, Ndileka, said Ramlakan’s book compromised Madiba’s dignity.

“It was unfair, disrespectful, and lacking of honour of the good doctor to share such intimate details he was entrusted with. All being said, out of sheer dignity and respect, it would be informing if Dr Ramlakan could share what his conscience was telling him,” she said.

She added that she was not aware of the book until a family member read to her some of its contents.

Their comments come as Penguin Random House on Monday pulled Mandela’s Last Years off the shelves a week after it first went on sale after criticism from Machel, executors of his estate and the defence force over the contents of the book.

The comments also come as the Nelson Mandela Foundation said it was compiling a list of “inaccuracies” in the book.

Foundation spokesman Sello Hatang said they, too, were in the dark about who had given Ramlakan permission to pen a book detailing intimate medical details of Mandela’s life.

“We don’t want to speculate, but we think it should be the doctor who tells us where he got this from,” Hatang said.

While Ramlakan did not return messages seeking comment – and Penguin Random House also refused to weigh in on the growing criticism – Ndaba said the family felt “betrayed”.

“Hopefully people will still respect the man that he was and not look at him as a patient. I’m happy to hear the book has been recalled.

“I think the man’s licence of being a doctor should be revoked, or at least investigated . seeing that he clearly violated the Hippocratic Oath,” he said.

Although he would not comment yesterday, in an earlier interview, Ramlakan said: “The first requirement was the family’s blessing. It came about at their request as well … when they had occasion to thank us for all the efforts over the years. It came very soon after Madiba had passed on, about three or four months.”

Penguin Random House’s Surita Joubert said yesterday: “We are not giving any further comment aside from yesterday’s statement.”