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Making a Difference

Libertina I. Amathila

Publication Year: 2012

ëFailure is not in my vocabularyí says Libertina Inaaviposa Amathila ñ medical doctor, leading member of Namibiaís liberation movement SWAPO, and Cabinet Minister for 20 years. Insightful, candid and amusing, this book traces Libertina Amathilaís journey from a village in western Namibia travelling alone to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1962; medical training in Poland, Sweden and London; and the health and education centres in Zambia and Angola that she helped develop and run for Namibians in exile; to a victorious return home in 1989; service in the Cabinet of independent Namibia; and a leading role in the World Health Organisation. Courageous, committed, cutting through difficulties that deterred others, Libertina Amathila has assisted and empowered Namibian communities, particularly women, in exile and at home. As Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing, Minister of Health and Social Services, and Deputy Prime Minister, she focused on those in need, such as squatters, street children, and those affected by HIV/AIDS, and undertook immediate practical measures to improve their lives. Packing her tent and supplies, she drove to remote areas and camped out until houses and clinics were built for marginalized communities, assisting in the design and construction process herself. An indomitable spirit drives this remarkable woman. This is her story.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v-x

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pp. xi

I have many people to thank. Firstly, a friend’s daughter, Emmarine Lottering, who helped me purchase a laptop and showed me how to use it. Every time my finger touched a wrong key and things became wild, she came running to rescue me from the dangers of modern...

Southern Africa Map

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pp. xiii

Namibia Map

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pp. xiv

Kunene Region Map

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pp. xv

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pp. xvii-xix

In the early 1970s I thought of telling a story about my life; not an autobiography as such but a story. My story, I decided, would deal with myself and how I contributed to the history of independent Namibia. I wanted to share my story with young women from Namibia, who want...

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1 Childhood Innocence

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pp. 1-14

I ran to my grandmother out of breath and shouted, ‘Grandma, the teachers can also kaka, yes, I saw my teacher with my own eyes.’ I saw him going to the bush and I couldn’t believe my eyes, because the direction he was taking was where village people went to kaka and I...

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2 Schooling

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pp. 15-19

My education was driven by my grandmother. I went up to the end of pre-school in Fransfontein (Groot B). My mother was not very impressed with my village education. My carefree life where I was allowed to do whatever I wanted to do irked her and she was worried...

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3 The Start of My Journey

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pp. 20-29

My political consciousness started at a young age. I was very aware of apartheid and the terrible oppression our people were subjected to. A black man couldn’t be in the white town after 9PM. Black people were subjected to untold abuse: any white person could beat up a black...

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4 A Dream Come True

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pp. 30-35

‘Where is this place, Poland?’ I asked myself when I heard about the scholarship. But I told myself ,‘I want to study Medicine and here is this opportunity; whether I know the place or not I am going!’ I vaguely remembered that during the Second World War there was a...

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5 Medical Studies in Warsaw

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pp. 36-44

I moved to Warsaw in the academic year of 1964. I shared a room with two other equally hard-working Polish students and we studied together, late into the night. Since I was the only black girl in the area of our hostel and in Poland in general, there was a lot of interest in me. All...

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6 An Intern in Tanzania

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pp. 45-55

After the party it was time to plan my trip back to Africa. I had no intention of hanging around in Europe. I had come to Poland for the one and only reason to qualify as a doctor to go and treat my people. I had accomplished that so I wanted to head home to the continent of...

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7 Further Studies in the UK and Sweden

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pp. 56-63

After completing my internship and working for six months in Tanzania as a registrar, I was awarded a scholarship by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to study Human Nutrition at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK. I left for London late September 1970 to take the one-year postgraduate course. I needed...

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8 Responding to the Refugee Crisis

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pp. 64-67

My trip to Africa was the beginning of fifteen years running clinics and kindergartens and keeping our children happy and healthy. It was the end of my planned specialization in Paediatrics, which I now got in practice. I arrived in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia in September...

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9 Nyango Health and Education Centre

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pp. 68-84

The Government of Zambia gave SWAPO virgin land on which to resettle the Namibian refugees. Th is place was called Nyango. I’m not sure how the name came about, whether it was the original name or we gave it that name, as there were no people living there until we settled...

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10 Political Responsibilities and International Solidarity

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pp. 85-97

SWAPO had organized its fi rst party congress from 26 December 1969 to 2 January 1970 in Tanga, Tanzania. I was elected the Secretary of the SWAPO Women’s Council and Deputy Secretary of Health. Dr Iyambo Indongo was the Secretary of Health. The interesting thing was that there...

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11 Ndalatando, Angola

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pp. 98-107

After four years in Nyango, Zambia, I was transferred to Angola in September 1979. We had a large number of Namibian refugees there – over 35,000 people. I left Lusaka and arrived in Kwanza Sul (Kwanza south), the main centre where the refugees were staying. The...

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12 Kwanza Sul

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pp. 108-113

When the nine men were killed I was so angry and horrified I decided to leave the centre the next day and move to our main centre in Kwanza Sul. I was not going to be part of this egomania. Nothing happened to the man responsible since the deaths were regarded as...

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13 Homecoming

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pp. 114-117

One bright morning in May 1989, a few months aft er the walkie-talkie affair, I was informed that we should pack our belongings because we were about to be repatriated to Namibia to take part in the elections. I remember I was so engulfed in my work that I didn’t...

14 The 1989 Elections

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pp. 118-123

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15 A Minister in Waiting

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pp. 124-130

I had been responsible for the health of our people throughout the liberation struggle and I assumed that if I were to be considered for any Government post after Independence, it would be the Health portfolio. I was wrong. I was surprised to be appointed Minister of...

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16 Squatters and Street Children

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pp. 131-136

After the celebrations, the real work started. I was now officially appointed the Minister of Local Government and Housing and my Deputy Minister was Comrade Jerry Ekandjo, a veteran of the notorious Robben Island prison during the struggle. There were many Namibians...

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17 Urban Renewal

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pp. 137-143

I found that, as Minister, I was required to approve the projects the municipalities were embarking on, so I used that privilege and decided that Katutura needed a serious facelift, and urgently. I told the Windhoek Municipality that I wouldn’t approve any request for improvement in...

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18 Reforming the Legislation

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pp. 144-149

My first visit to meet the Windhoek municipal councillors as Minister of Local Government and Housing was an unforgettable experience. When I walked into the Council Chamber one sunny morning in 1990, I was met by apprehensive white men, all of them...

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19 Providing Better Housing

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pp. 150-159

The situation was also exacerbated by people flocking to towns in search of work and a better life, leaving their old parents in the villages to fend for themselves. Since not everybody could be employed and the towns were not able to provide serviced land, people ended up in...

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20 Regional Representation

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pp. 160-168

Namibia has a parliamentary multiparty democracy and elections are held every five years. It is not within the scope of this book to describe governance issues in detail. However, suffice it to say that we have elected bodies at national, regional and local level....

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21 Minister of Health and Social Services

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pp. 169-180

I was transferred to the Ministry of Health and Social Services in September 1996 after six years of hard work in Regional and Local Government and Housing. This Ministry was not a new one; it had existed since colonial times but had many problems and lots of unfinished...

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22 Failed Attempt at Democracy

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pp. 181-184

As the 2004 elections loomed – our third since Independence – SWAPO was faced with a severe test of its own internal democracy. We needed to elect a new presidential candidate to take over from the Founding Father of the Namibian Nation, Comrade Sam Nujoma, who...

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23 Deputy Prime Minister

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pp. 185-191

When I moved to my new office, there was no handover and I found no documents to work on. The terms of reference of the Deputy Prime Minister were to assist the President and the Prime Minister with their duties. I felt dejected; with such terms of reference I could as well...

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24 Marginalized San Communities

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pp. 192-201

After completing my assignment of the German Special Initiative, I wondered what I would do next. I didn’t have long to wait. One Opposition Member of Parliament, Honourable Moongo, asked the Prime Minister the following question: was the Prime Minister aware...

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25 The San Development Programme

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pp. 202-220

I put a team together in my office to start the San Development Programme, and the Government allocated it a budget of N$400,000. The first priority was to find farms for the San people because it was no use giving them assistance in the squalid conditions they were living in,...

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26 Mountain Folk in the Kunene Region

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pp. 221-242

The Kunene Region, particularly Kaokoland, is pristine, with unspoiled forests, and some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Namibia. The Zebra Mountains stand out in my opinion. To complete the scene, the great Kunene River flows, forming the border between...

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27 Lessons Learnt

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pp. 243-250

There’s no tradition that keeps people in destitution; it is poverty and ignorance that do that. Therefore, every Namibian needs and deserves a better deal. People shouldn’t be left in the mountains in desperation under the assumption that this is their way of life or their...

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28 Looking Back and Looking Forward

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pp. 251-266

I was interviewed on Herero Radio one day by a young journalist who was of the opinion that I wasn’t behaving according to my status as Deputy Prime Minister, and that my pre-occupation with the marginalized communities wasn’t what I should be doing. Actually, he accused both...

Appendix I. Tributes to Dr Amathila on her Retirement

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pp. 267-273

Appendix II. Autobiographical Profi le of Libertina Inaaviposa Amathila

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pp. 275-278


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pp. 279-294

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789991687094
Print-ISBN-13: 9789991687087

Page Count: 316
Publication Year: 2012