Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has extended her condolences following the death of the former Surgeon General of the South African Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Vejaynand Ramlakan. She announced this while briefing Parliament’s Standing committee on Defence on various matters relating to the SANDF.
“Our former SG VJ Ramlakan has just passed on, may his soul rest in peace. Retired probably three, four years ago, assuming its COVID. May his soul rest in peace.”
Ramlakan passed away at the age of 62 of what is suspected to be a heart attack in a Johannesburg hospital.
He was the head of former President Nelson Mandela’s health team from 2005. He served in Umkhonto we Sizwe during the liberation struggle and transferred to the SANDF in 1994.
He also wrote a controversial book called ‘Mandela’s Last Years’ where he gave intimate details about the former President.
He first joined Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) as an underground operative in Natal in 1977. During this period, he underwent general military training in South Africa and in Swaziland. At the University of Natal, General 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, Lt Gen Ramlakan was involved in MK Operation BUTTERFLY. He also held office as a member of the first APMC inside South Africa.
His continued military and active political involvement saw him being 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 ANC National Conference in 1991 and CODESA between 1991 and 1992 before he became Medical Commander for the President 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 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 Oct 1994 and Nov 1995;
- Inspector General of the SAMHS from Dec until Feb 2000;
- GOC Area Military Health Formation from Feb 2000 until Nov 2000;
- Inspector General DOD from Nov 2000 until Dec 2004; and
- SANDF’s Chief Director Strategic Planning from Jan 2005 until he was promoted to Surgeon-General, in command of the South African Military Health Service in 2005.
- On 2 October 2011, he was appointed as Chief of SANDF Corporate Staff designate and took over the post on 1 April 2013.
He retired quietly in May 2015