Dr Vejaynand Indurjith Ramlakan, more popularly known as 'Vejay', was born in Durban, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal), South Africa in 1957. He matriculated at Naidoo Memorial High in Umkomaas, Natal in 1974 and then obtained his basic medical degree from the University of Natal (now known as the University of KwaZulu-Natal - Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine), Durban, in 1980.
He joined uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) as an underground operative in Natal in 1977. During this period, he underwent military training in South Africa and in Swaziland. At the University of Natal, Ramlakan served as the President of the Medical Students Representative Council from 1979 to 1980.
From 1981 until 1983, he was Vice President and General Secretary of the Natal Health Worker’s Association, and also a founding member of the United Democratic Front (UDF). As part of the command structures of MK in the then province of Natal, Ramlakan was involved in MK Operation Butterfly.
Dr Ramlakan was convicted of ordering the Tricameral Parliament, House of Delegates, leader Amichand Rajbansi's home to be bombed. He said that he wanted to show Rajbansi that he represented no one but himself and that the "oppressed people will not forgive him".
His was incarcerated on Robben Island between 1987 and 1991, where he was a member of the Central Political Education Committee. General Ramlakan served as Medical Commander at the African National Congress (ANC) National Conference in 1991 and at the Congress for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) between 1991 and 1992 before he became Medical Commander for the President Nelson Mandela Guard in 1992. Between 1993 and 1994, he served as Deputy Chief of MK Health Service and led the MK military health team for integration into the National Peace Keeping Force (NPKF) and later the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
In the SANDF, he held the following positions:
- Director Planning of the South African Military Health Service (SAMHS) between October 1994 and November 1995
- Inspector General of the South African Medical Health Service (SAMHS) from December until Feb 2000
- Promoted to the rank of Major General and appointed as the Inspector General of the Department of Defence with effect from 1 November 2000
- GOC Area Military Health Formation from February 2000 until Nov 2000
- Inspector General Department of Defence (DOD) from November 2000 until December 2004
- SANDF's Chief Director Strategic Planning from Jan 2005
- Lieutenant General V.I. Ramlakan appointed as the Surgeon General of the SA Military Health Service in 2011
Appointed as Chief of SANDF Corporate Staff designate on 2 October 2011, and took over the post on 1 April 2013
In July 2017, Dr Ramlakan wrote a book Mandela’s Last Years: the story of Nelson Mandela’s final journey, by the head of his medical team. It was published by Penguin Random House South Africa but then “voluntarily” withdrawn from circulation by the publisher (there was no court order), because the “Mandela family” had not given Ramlakan permission to publish the book and especially much of the material contained in it. Mandela's widow Graca Machel was considering legal action against the book, accusing Dr Ramlakan of breaching patient confidentiality.
He was scheduled to appear in a hearing before the Professional Conduct Committee of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as a result of a complaint made by Graça Machel that Ramlakan abused the Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) ethical rules by breaching doctor-patient rules of confidentiality in his book.
“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,” said the publisher in a statement. “However, given the statements from family members, we have decided to withdraw the book.” No further copies of the already printed book were distributed.
Ramlakan told his publisher that he had permission from Mandela’s family for the medical tell-all, and said in a newspaper interview that in fact the family requested he write it.
Surgeon General Ramlakan has received the following decorations:
- Decoration for Merit in Gold (DMG)
- Merit Medal in Silver (MMS)
- Merit Medal in Bronze (MMB)
- Operational Medal for Southern Africa
- South Africa Service Medal
- Unitas Medal
- Mandela Commemoration Medal (Gold)
- Medalje vir Troue Diens (Medal for Loyal Service with 30 Year Clasp)
- Service Medal in Silver
- Service Medal in Bronze
- Venerable Order of Saint John - Knight of Justice or Grace (Gr II) (KStJ)
- Gold Mandela Commemorative - 2014
He retired from the SANDF in May 2015.
Surgeon General Vejaynand ‘Vejay’ Indurjith Ramlakan passed away on 27 August 2020 in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa, from natural causes.
- Wikipedia. (2020). Vejaynand Ramlakan Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vejaynand_Ramlakan#:~:text=Awards%20and%20Decorations-,Early%20life,University%20of%20Natal%20in%201980.online. Accessed on 28 August 2020.
- SANDF. (2000). SA National Defence Force Headquarters, 27 September 2000 Media Statement By the Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), General Siphiwe Nyanda : Senior Promotions and Appointments in the SANDF online. Available at https://web.archive.org/web/20100117093651/http://www.info.gov.za/speeches/2000/001003110p1003.htm. Accessed on 28 August 2020.
- Department of Defence. (2011). Appointments and/or Promotions Of Lieutenant Generals, Admirals And Major Generals 02 October 2011 Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, online. Available at http://www.dod.mil.za/news/news%202011/September2011/springbok.htm. Accessed on 28 August 2020.
- Tlhabye, G. (2014) President awards Mandela Commemorative medals, from Daily News, IOL, 8 December 2014. Available at https://www.iol.co.za/dailynews/news/president-awards-mandela-commemorative-medals-1792207#.VOR4JPmUeSo online. Accessed on 28 August 2020.
- Gordin, J. (2019). Graça Machel vs Dr Vejay Ramlakan from Politics Web, 7 April 2019. Available at https://www.politicsweb.co.za/news-and-analysis/graa-machel-vs-dr-vejay-ramlakan online. Accessed on 28 August 2020.
- Ha, T.H. (2017). Publishers have pulled a book claiming Nelson Mandela was holding his ex-wife’s hand when he died from Quartz, 25 July 2017. Available at https://qz.com/1038295/death-of-nelson-mandela-his-family-killed-vejay-ramlakans-book-mandelas-last-years-over-details-of-his-death/ online. Accessed on 28 August 2020.
- Tricameral Parliament
- Govender, S. & Naidoo, Y. (2017). 'Winnie held his hand': Doctor remembers Madiba's last breath. Doctor's startling revelations on Madiba 's death lift lid on bedside dramas from the Sunday Time, 16 Jul 2017, online.