"Withdrawal of Mandela book a form of censorship"

Mandela’s Last Years, written by retired military doctor Vejay Ramlakan who headed up Madiba's medical team during his last years, caused much outcry when it was published recently.

Mandela family members were angry, saying the author had not been granted permission to publish and it was a breach of medical ethics and patient doctor confidentiality. The doctor insisted he had been granted permission by members of the family.

Penguin Random House Publishers withdrew the book in July and called for media review copies to be returned.

She says there are two parts that relate to why this action could be viewed as censorship.

The first aspect is that there was no legal reason to withdraw the book.

It's partly a kind of self-censorship on the part of the publisher. They did not have to withdraw the book. There was no real legal basis for them to do so. And so by withdrawing it, they have censored themselves.

Beth le Roux, Publishing professor, University of Pretoria

The second aspect is the pressure from an influential family.

This was simply pressure. And when you have an influential family using that influence and bringing that to bear on somebody to suppress the circulation of information, that is a form of censorship as well.

Beth le Roux, Publishing professor, University of Pretoria

She believes the Mandela family threats of legal action had very little chance of succeeding. The basis for a legal threat in South Africa would be defamation, she says.

One would have to show that something said in the book was harmful to someone's character or was blatantly untrue and in the book quite the opposite was done, she adds.

He was shown in a very positive light rather than trying to break down his reputation.

Beth le Roux, Publishing professor, University of Pretoria

Five errors were identified by the Nelson Mandela Foundation but Le Roux says unless they were substantive errors it is unlikely to carry weight.

She says while a doctor writing such a book could be considered unethical, it is not illegal.

Listen to the interview below:


This article first appeared on 702 : "Withdrawal of Mandela book a form of censorship"


CapeTalk welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the CapeTalk community a safe and welcoming space for all.

CapeTalk reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

CapeTalk is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
The Wine feature: Fun fruity wines for summer

The Wine feature: Fun fruity wines for summer

Here's John Maytham's top 3 wine picks.

Motives for KZN political killings unclear

Motives for KZN political killings unclear

EWN Reporter Ziyanda Ngcobo talk on the latest political killing in KZN.

"Sithole's administrative background will aid his role as police commissioner"

"Sithole's administrative background will aid his role as police commissioner"

Insitute for Security Studies Gareth Newham looks at newly appointed National Police Commissioner Lt-General Khehla Sithole.

City of CT launches water dashboard to track water crisis

City of CT launches water dashboard to track water crisis

EWN reporter Monique Mortlock explains the City of Cape Town's Water Dashboard.

[LISTEN] Ndileka Mandela angered and disappointed by Vejay Ramlakan book

[LISTEN] Ndileka Mandela angered and disappointed by Vejay Ramlakan book

Eldest granddaughter of former President Nelson Mandela says she is pained that medical details were revealed.

LISTEN: Madiba's doctor details dramatic, touch-and-go event months before death

LISTEN: Madiba's doctor details dramatic, touch-and-go event months before death

Nelson Mandela's physician sets the record straight about Mandela's state of health and passing in a memoir, Mandela's Last Years.

Popular articles
Zim ministers snub Mugabe's cabinet meeting call

Zim ministers snub Mugabe's cabinet meeting call

Regional Co-Ordinator at Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition, Joy Mabenge says the keys to Mugabe's impeachment are turning very fast.

Tender irregularities plague City of Cape Town

Tender irregularities plague City of Cape Town

Allegations point to irregularities in the tender processes where some bidders were preferred by the City's senior executives.

What Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Makro will offer on Black Friday

What Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Makro will offer on Black Friday

Up for a Springboks level scrum? Instructions on how to ensure you get the deals in your inbox the moment they become known...

I didn't believe that he was ever going to step down - JJ Cornish

I didn't believe that he was ever going to step down - JJ Cornish

EWN Africa Correspondent, JJ Cornish describes Mugabe's Sunday evening speech as a humiliating downturn for the Zim president.