Ubuntu: What it Means to South Africans?

There’s so much information surrounding the xenophobic attacks that are taking place in South Africa, that that’s all we seem to hear about at the moment, but it’s so important that we carry on listening to the messages being broadcast so that we understand what’s happening in our country and try to work out a way to start healing.

Ubuntu is an Nguni Bantu term that gained massive popularity in South Africa during the 1990s, thanks largely to its use by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Grammatically speaking the word combines the root ‘ntu’ (person, human being) with the prefix ‘ubu’, resulting in the approximate translation, ‘humanity’. On a layman’s level though, most people understand the term to refer to a sense of community, where people look after each other for the greater good. In post-Apartheid South Africa, the concept of ubuntu has become something of a flag that we fly as a symbol of our pride in our people – the word ubuntu even appeared in the Epilogue of the Interim Constitution of South Africa, “there is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu but not for victimisation”.

These are words to live by in these trying times, and we urge everyone to remember the spirit of ubuntu that we are so proud of as South Africans! Stop the fighting and start looking for ways to strengthen the continent of Africa. We are a force to be reckoned with – provided that we stand united.

Click here to read a previous Ulwazi entry on ubuntu, and to listen to what the father of our nation, Nelson Mandela, had to say on the subject.

Photograph courtesy of humanjourney.com.

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