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Mandela's widow moves to silence his doctor

Publish date: 09 September 2019
Issue Number: 840
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, is trying to prevent his former doctor from revealing sensitive information about his final years, including that he died in the arms of his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and that Machel was not with him at the time, says a Weekend Argus report. Dr Vejay Ramlakan is appearing before the professional conduct committee of the Health Professions Council (HPCSA) following a complaint by Machel, who has applied for the hearing to be held in camera and for those attending to be barred from publishing Mandela’s medical and other private information. In her affidavit, Machel accuses Ramlakan of disclosing Mandela’s private information without consent. In response, Ramlakan argues he had the permission of Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela-Amuah, to disclose information and that disclosing what happened in Mandela’s final years was in the public interest, given misinformation and rumours he had been ill-treated by his medical team and denied visitors. The hearings will resume in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, today after being postponed in April at Machel’s request.

Machel wants those at the hearings to register, provide details of themselves and state the capacity in which they are attending. Weekend Argus notes that in 2017, Machel reported Ramlakan to the HPCSA, accusing him of unethical conduct and of violating Mandela’s dignity by disclosing his medical records in his book, Mandela’s Last Years, without consent. She wants Ramlakan disciplined by the HPCSA and possibly barred from practising medicine. The book was pulled off the shelves in August 2017. Machel alleges Ramlakan wrote his book without the family’s permission, breached patient confidentiality by disclosing Mandela’s private life, and violated his code of medical ethics. But Ramlakan, in his responding affidavit, says he received Mandela-Amuah’s permission in 2014 to write the book. In an affidavit sent to the HPCSA in April 2018, Mandela-Amuah confirmed she granted permission for the book to be written because ‘matters relating to him and his health care were seriously misinterpreted in the public domain’. Ramlakan, a former surgeon-general of the SANDF, says in his affidavit he ‘felt obliged to correct the wrong perceptions by giving the true facts’ about Mandela’s last days, as some of the incidents were ‘twisted by the public’.

Full Weekend Argus report (subscription needed)