PRH South Africa pulls book about Mandela's last days

PRH South Africa pulls book about Mandela's last days

A controversial book about the final days of Nelson Mandela's life written by his doctor has reportedly been withdrawn by publisher Penguin Random House South Africa.

The former South African president’s family had complained that the book contained personal details and it is believed to reveal "undignified" episodes and well as family squabbles, according to the BBC.

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

Penguin Random House South Africa (PRHSA) said it had pulled the book, and was written by his doctor of almost a decade, "out of respect" for the family. 

The title was was published on 17th July and still appears on the publisher's website with a photo of Ramlakan with Mandela but the page reads: “Unfortunately information on this book is currently unavailable.” The original description said the book “sets the record straight about Mandela's last years through the personal account of the head of his medical team”. It has now been withdrawn from all stores.

A PRHSA spokesperson said that the author had told them Mandela's family had asked for the book to be written. However last week, Mandela's widow Graca Machel was reportedly considering taking legal action against the book, according to the BBC, accusing Ramlakan of breaching patient confidentiality.

According to South Africa’s Independent Online, on Monday afternoon (24th July), PRHSA announced plans to withdraw the book. The publisher’s publicist Surita Joubert said: "Penguin Random House South Africa (PRHSA) has decided to immediately withdraw the book Mandela’s Last Years from the trade, and no further copies will be issued. The publisher has done so out of respect for the late Mr Mandela's family.

"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."

She added: "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."

Milton Nkosi, the BBC’s South Africa correspondent, said the publisher’s u-turn “shows just how much weight the Mandela name still carries years after his demise”.

According to Nkosi, one detail which upset Machel was the assertion that when Mandela took his last breath it was in fact Winnie Mandela's hand he was holding and not hers.

Another incident reportedly included in the book includes an ambulance which took Mandela to hospital in the middle of the night but broke down and was forced to wait 30 minutes for a replacement.