Ubuntu is Alive and Well in South Africa

By Nompumelelo Zinhle Manzini

“Umuntu umuntu ngabuntu.” But to what extent?

Ubuntu is having humanity, the willingness to share all you have with the society at large. The African philosophy further narrates that “it takes a community to raise a child”. However in the modern society one can no longer trust family let alone the society at large. As a result of South Africa’s intricate past, the philosophy of Ubuntu moved with our forefathers from our dusty rural areas to our sub-urban concrete paths, also known as the ‘townships'. Due to the circumstances of those times (in the apartheid era) trust was built and the communities had unity, humanity and support. A child was raised by a community. People shared what they had because not only was it a humane act but it was also looking after one another, for everyone then shared the same struggle. Furthermore the act brought forth the notion of sharing success, in as much as the Christian doctrine states that the more you give, is the more your tree shall bear much fruit “what you sow, you reap”.

South Africa is a developing country; therefore we (citizens) have also had to develop. Even though, that development has meant that we adopt the liberal way of doing things, which to me seems somewhat Eurocentric. The process of our ‘development’ has led to the loss of some of our morals, values and culture. The worlds mission has been to create ones own name and fortune in an individual way, even if it may lead to being unethical and this is something that is evident in the headlines of our newspapers.

Since South Africa is such a diverse country, cultures have integrated and some blacks have evolved into living a more westernized lifestyle, which is characterized by living in isolation. Poverty rates have increased, people have forgotten one another and all these social issues are really encompassing and some have greatly led to crime. Some issues include a fellow black brother stealing and raping his own black brothers’ wealth and family. As citizens we further watch our fellow people go hungry in the streets of Hillbrow and even brush it away, or could not be apprehensive because it is not direct family. Surely that can’t be the spirit of Ubuntu?

Perhaps it is time that we as Africans reassess the definition of Ubuntu. Even so perhaps it is time that we are reminded as a society holistically what having Ubuntu is. All I have seen in my nineteen years of living is people talking about Ubuntu to the American tourists that come by. Yet in practice we are building higher walls within our homes, and we further do not even know our neighbours names anymore, let alone greet them. It is great and all that we as a country are moving forward, however that does not mean that we have to lose our culturally principles.

Going Back to Consciousness!

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