Lt-Gen Vejaynand Ramlakan has contributed to many levels of society throughout his life, from a trade unionist, medical doctor, underground ANC cadre, uMkhonto weSizwe combatant to career soldier in the army.
Having grown up in the apartheid system he began student life with a sheltered outlook, but while attending the medical school, his mind was freed from his previously blinkered social views, and where he was involved in many student organizations. This involvement with student politics lead him to join the ANC underground movement, as a student activist as well as programmes engaged in sabotage against the apartheid regime.
After graduating as a medical doctor in 1980, he worked by day as a medical doctor and by night as an uMkhonto weSizwe soldier, a contradiction he happily lived by as he appreciated its significance. He was later arrested after 5 years, and was sentenced to prison on Robben Island in 1987. Here he became a member of the Central Political Education Committee, and with the unbanning of the ANC, spent a year and a half preparing fellow political prisoners to become leaders, before they were released. Together with a group of ex-political prisoners he is currently involved in launching the Robben Island Leadership Institute, where lessons they learnt during their time in struggle are shared with current and new leadership in an effort to continue in the path set by their forefathers.
In 1993, after his release, Vejay was called upon by the late Minister of Defence Joe Modise to assist in the creation of a new National Defence Force, where he has since spent the last two decades fulfilling many different roles.
In 2005 he was promoted to Surgeon-General where he acted as the military physician to former president Nelson Mandela, and the principal medical advisor to Madiba on behalf of the State. In this capacity he was heavily involved in Mandela’s care during his last few years.
Lt-Gen Ramlakan has received many awards for military service, was knighted as the Order of Saint John by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, for his contribution to military health, and was presented the UKZN Edgar Brookes award, for outstanding contribution to human endeavor and freedom.