Former Surgeon General dies

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Former SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) Surgeon General and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief of Staff, Dr Vejay Ramlakan, died yesterday (Thursday, 27 August).

While he was in command of the military health service he oversaw medical treatment for democratic South Africa’s first president Nelson Mandela and subsequently authored a book with his Mandela time as the subject.

The 62-year-old reportedly died in a Johannesburg healthcare facility after a heart attack.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula expressed sadness at his death. She, along with Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla and recently appointed Secretary for Defence Sonto Kudjoe all expressed condolences to family and friends.

While in the SANDF Ramlakan was, among others, director planning of SAMHS, Inspector General of SAMHS, General Officer Commanding (GOC) Area Military Health Formation, Inspector General of the Department of Defence (DoD), Chief Director Strategic Planning, SANDF Surgeon General and SANDF Chief Corporate Staff until his retirement in May 2015.

Ramlakan served in the ANC military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe and integrated into the fledgling SANDF in 1994.

His book – Mandela’s Last Years – was published in 2017, five years after Mandela’s death. It was withdrawn from sale after the Mandela family objected to its publication, reportedly without their permission. Ramlakan was reported by the Health Professions Council by Graca Machel, the late president’s wife at the time of his death. Her complaint accused the former three-star general of unethical conduct and of violating Mandela’s dignity in disclosing medical records without consent.