1 February 2013

Namibia: Dr Elizabeth Hilunanye Shangula - the Epitome of Hard Work (1953 ? 2008)


The analysis of the history of Dr Elizabeth Shangula shows that she was highly regarded, particularly for the role she played in the liberation struggle and for the dedication and hard work she demonstrated during her medical career before and after independence.

Shangula is noted to have been a leading Namibian state pathologist and is also hailed for being instrumental in providing medical services to Namibian sons and daughters who fought in the liberation struggle. "She was the pillar of our medical services there in exile and she continued to provide medical services to our people with vigour and determination in our country after independence," reads Shangula's obituary.

Shangula is noted to have been born on the 30th of August 1953 at Olukulo in the present day Omusati Region. Like many Namibian youth who left the country to join the pioneers of the struggle and fight for the liberation of their motherland, Shangula left to join Swapo in exile in 1974. Whilst in exile, Shangula received a scholarship to go and study medicine in the former Soviet Union. She undertook her medical studies at the People's Friendship University in Moscow and graduated as medical doctor in June 1983. "Her qualifying as a doctor was not easy. She, like many of us came from a background that taught us that blacks were inferior and therefore could not become doctors. Yet she took her studies seriously and eventually became one the few Namibian women doctors we had in exile," cites Shangula's obituary.

After completing her studies she returned to rejoin the rank and file of Swapo cadres exiled in Angola. She first began practising as a general medical practitioner in Kwanza Sul and later also served as the Assistant Medical Superintendent at Peter Nanyemba Military Hospital in Southern Angola.

It was particularly at Peter Nanyemba Military Hospital that she is noted to have played a critical role in providing medical services to the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) combatants who sustained injuries during battles with the South African colonial army.

Moreover, Shangula's work in exile was not only confined to the provision of medical services to combatants and the Namibian refugee community in Angola. Her biography file notes that "during the liberation struggle she also worked for the Swapo Department for information and Publicity, both in Lusaka, Zambia and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania."

Following the return of Namibians from exile in 1989, Shangula started working at the Oshakati State Hospital. Perhaps owing to the lack of qualified doctors in Namibia, but also most importantly due to the noted commitment and dedication that Shangula put in the provision of medical services to the wider Namibian community, she did not only work at Oshakati hospital. Whilst working at Oshakati hospital, she at the same time rendered services at Tsandi, Okahao and Tsumeb district hospitals.

In 1997, she was transferred to Katutura State Hospital and to Windhoek Central Hospital in 2000 where she worked as the state pathologist at the Department of Forensic Medicine, until she died in 2008. She was the wife of Dr Kalumbi Shangula.

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