Cadres bid farewell to fallen soldier Vejay Ramlakan
Durban - It was a sombre, socially distanced yet intimate send-off yesterday for the former surgeon-general of the armed forces and doctor to Nelson Mandela.
Dr Vejaynand Ramlakan died last Thursday of a heart attack at the age of 62 in a Johannesburg hospital.
Family, friends and comrades bid their final farewell to Ramlakan at a full military funeral held in eThekwini municipality’s City Hall which began around midday.
Filling the carefully spaced out rows of chairs were retired politician Mac Maharaj, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as well as the acting chief of the SANDF’s Lieutenant-General Rudzani Maphwanya and Chaplain General Andrew Jamangile.
The programme co-ordinator was former provincial health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
Ramlakan’s daughter Rosa (Ramlakan) and her younger brother Anand (Ramlakan) addressed mourners on behalf of the family.
Ramlakan served in Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC’s military wing, during the liberation Struggle against the apartheid regime during the 1980s and was transferred to the SANDF when MK was incorporated into it in 1994.
He rose through the ranks occupying various positions and became Mandela’s medical doctor until his death in December 2013.
During the Struggle years, Ramlakan was a commander of “Operation Butterfly”, a programme to develop an integrated political-military underground command structure in Durban and a campaign to destabilise the country’s border regions.
One of his Butterfly Unit comrades and fellow Robben Island inmate was Dhlomo who thanked all those who attended to honour Ramlakan and embolden his legacy with their recountings of his life and character.
The obituary was given by another fellow Butterfly Unit comrade, Ricky Naidoo, who said he first met Ramlakan in the 1980s while they were studying.
Naidoo said he would not permit considerations of religion, race, politics or physical standing to interfere with his mission.
Ramlakan was quoted as saying: “I am no star-struck idealist, pipe-dreamer or angry young man. My motivations have been based on the scientific study of our society... No sentence is going to reform or rehabilitate me. No further repression is going to reform or rehabilitate our oppressed community... No sentence, however severe, is going to serve as a deterrent to any of us. Whatever form the sentence takes, there will always be more fighters to sentence until we achieve our final victory, until the people do govern.”
Mkhize gave the eulogy which recounted his time served with Ramlakan in the Butterfly Unit. “He was a brave warrior and we pay tribute to his wife Sandy Africa, who was also part of the Struggle. He chose a life of patriotism. You fought a good fight and we honour you. May his soul rest in peace.”
A virtual memorial was held by the ANC in Ramlakans honour co-ordinated by Mkhize and the party’s deputy secretary-general Jesse Duarte on Wednesday.
It was run by Dhlomo with Mkhize and Ramlakan’s daughter speaking. Also in attendance was Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.