Amathila, Libertine Appolus (1940—)

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Amathila, Libertine Appolus (1940–)

Namibian political leader and health expert. Born Libertine Appolus in 1940 in Fransfontein, South West Africa (today Namibia); married Namibian political activist, Ben Amathila.

Director of the Women's Council of SWAPO; named to the new cabinet as minister of local government and housing after the founding of Namibia.

Libertine Appolus was born in 1940 in Fransfontein, South West Africa, and completed her secondary education in South Africa. After returning to South West Africa, she joined the growing Namibian independence movement, becoming increasingly a target of the South African authorities that ruled Namibia at that time. In 1962, Libertine Appolus went into exile and lived for some time in Tanzania, where she applied for, and received, a scholarship to study in Poland. In the 1960s, while becoming a leading SWAPO activist in Europe, she completed a medical education in Poland, Sweden, and London. Instead of specializing, she covered several broad areas that would be useful in developing a nation when the time came for her to return: public health, nutrition, pediatrics and tropical medicine. During her exile years, Libertine Appolus married another prominent Namibian political activist, Ben Amathila (1930—), who was treasurer general of SWAPO and also the organization's deputy secretary for education and culture.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Libertine Amathila served as director of the Women's Council of SWAPO. In 1970, she was appointed to the position of the party's assistant secretary for health and social welfare. She began serving on the central committee of SWAPO in the late 1960s and was a universally recognized national figure by the time Namibian independence was achieved in 1990. As number ten on the SWAPO election list of 1989, she was easily elected to the Assembly of a newly independent Namibia and was named to the new cabinet as minister of Local Government and Housing. In the same election her husband also won an Assembly seat and joined his wife in the cabinet as minister of Trade and Industry.


Grotpeter, John J. Historical Dictionary of Namibia. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1994.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia