“Failure is not in my vocabulary … I wanted to share my story with young women from Namibia, who want to do something but who may think that it is difficult or that it is only for boys or that it will take long. I wanted to encourage them and tell them that all it needs is focus, determination, courage and discipline.”
Review André du Pisani
The publication of Dr Libertina Amathila’s memoirs in 2012 was undoubtedly one of the highlights on the local publishing scene.
An outstandingly fruitful read, this accessible book narrates Amathila’s journey from the humble town of Fransfontein in the Kunene Region, where she was born, through her exile in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, her medical studies in Poland, Sweden and London; her work with Namibian refugees in the health and education centres in Zambia and Angola, her return home in 1989, her 20 years as a cabinet minister and later as deputy prime minister since independence in March 1990, and her retirement from public life in 2010.
Unlike other grand narratives of the liberation struggle Making a Difference is not self-reverential. It tells the story of a remarkable woman who with the support of other humanitarians interceded in the lives of those who needed encouragement, love, support and care. Written with compassion and humour, the book recounts how through human and moral agency, the inner demons that inhabit all of us can be mediated for the better.
Particularly moving was her engagement with the marginalised communities of the San and the Ovahimba, Ovatjimba, Ovatue, Ovazemba and Hakaona communities in independent Namibia when she was deputy prime minister.
“Failure is not in my vocabulary,” says Libertina Inaaviposa Amathila, and this memoir shows why and how an indomitable spirit continues to drive this mind-altering and life-changing woman. Unlike ‘man, proud man, drest in a little brief authority’ in William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, she did not make the angels weep.
Her work was and is rooted in the psychology of forgiveness, in accepting the validity of ‘the other’, in reconciling as a human, as distinct from a state project. Herein lies the most redeeming features of a life of care and service; she did indeed make ‘a difference’ in the lives of many. Making a Difference could become a life-changing book rather than just another memoir by a public figure; it deserves to be widely read and discussed.
André du Pisani is a Namibian writer, poet and artist, currently professor in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies, University of Namibia
“Libertina Amathila belongs in the hall of fame for achievers and benefactors of people in need. It’s a matter of inherent conscience and trustworthiness that trigger off such high sense of duty towards fellow human beings only as a well-meant gesture of benevolence.”
Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, Republic of Namibia
“Inspiring, just like the author herself, who is passionate and enthusiastic about every project and responsibility she is given… a major contribution to the body of literature on the contribution of women towards the liberation struggle in Namibia and the region.”
Martha Akawa, Head of the Department of Geography,
History and Environmental Studies, University of Namibia
University of Namibia Press