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Ubuntu Philosophy


Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term that means "humanity". Sometimes, it is converted as "I am because we are" or "humanity towards others". The latter term is used in Xhosa but is often described in a more philosophical sense for meaning "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity".

Different titles in other Bantu languages

It has many other names in many Bantu languages. However, the most famous name is Ubuntu (South Africa, Zulu language).

Humanity in Bantu languages

Also, the name differs by country, like Zimbabwe (hunhu, unhu, or Ubuntu), Zambia (ubuntu/umunthu), Uganda (obuntu), Tanzania (bumuntu/obuntu/utu), South Africa (botho/ubuntu), Rwanda (ubuntu), Namibia (omundu), Mozambique (vumuntu), Malawi (umunthu), Kenya (mondo/munto/utu), Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC; bantu/bomoto), Republic of the Congo (RotC; bantu), Cameroon (bato), Burundi (ubuntu), Botswana (muthu), and Angola (kimuntu). Also, it is found in many countries not listed here.

Ubuntu short statements or maxims

Often, Ubuntu is illustrated in short statements known as maxims by Samkange (1980). A few of these are:

  • Muthu ndi muthu nga vhathu (Venda). A person is a person from other people.
  • Munhu i munhu hivanwani vanhu (Xitsonga). A person is a person from other people.
  • Ndiri nekuti tiri (Shona). I am because we are.
  • Munhu munhu nevanhu (Shona). A person from other people.
  • Umntu ngumntu ngabantu (Xhosa). A person is a person from other people.
  • Umntu ngumntu ngabantu (Zulu). A person is a person from other people.
  • Motho ke motho ka batho (Tswana/Sotho). A person is a person from other people.

Concept history in African sources

Although Ubuntu has been present in orature (oral literature), but it occurred in South African sources from the mid-19th century. Reported conversions described the semantic field of "humanity, humanness, human nature; kindness, goodness, virtue". The word grammatically combines the root person so that the word is parallel to the abstract noun humanity formation exactly.

This concept was famous in terms of a "world view" or "philosophy" starting in the 1950s, notably in the Jordan Kush Ngubane writings released in the African drum magazine. The ubuntu term started to be defined as a particular kind of "African humanism" in the 1970s. Based on the concept of Africanisation proposed by the political thinkers in the 1960s time of decolonization, ubuntu was utilized as a word of a particularly African type of humanism detected in the concept of the transition to the rule in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

  • The initial publication committed to ubuntu as the philosophical concept occurred in 1980, Ubuntuism or Hunhuism.
  • The philosophy of a Zimbabwe Indigenous Politics by Stanlake J.W.T. Samkange. Ubuntuism or Hunhuism is represented as a political ideology for Zimbabwe, as Southern Rhodesia gained independence from the UK.
  • In the 1990s, the concept was utilized in South Africa as a guiding absolute for the transition from apartheid to majority rule.
  • The word occurs in the conclusion of the Interim Constitution of South Africa (1993), "there is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, and need for ubuntu but not for that victimisation".
  • It has come to be utilized as a contested word for a type of humanist philosophy, ideology, or ethics in South Africa, also called Ubuntuism proposed in the Africanisation process of the countries at the time of the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Fresh research has started for questioning the absolute "humanism" framing, and hence to recommend that ubuntu can have a "militaristic" perspective.

Since the conversion to democracy between South Africa and the Nelson Mandela presidency in 1994, the term has become widely known external to Southern Africa, famous to English-language readers from Desmond Tutu's ubuntu theology. Tutu was the South Africa TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) chairman, and various have disputed that ubuntu was a beloved effect on the TRC.

By country


In the local Chewa language, a similar philosophy is known as "uMunthu" in Malawi. The uMunthu philosophy has been passed on from proverbs, like ukachenjera manja udya naye (her/his success is your success too) and Mwana wa mnzako ngwako yemwe (your neighbor's child is your own). A few notable Malawian uMunthu intellectuals and philosophers who have discussed this worldview are Happy Kayuni, Harvey Kwiyani, Richard Tambulasi, Chiwoza Bandawe, Gerard Chigona, and Augustine Musopole.

It includes Malawian theologist and philosopher Harvey Sindima's treatment of uMunthu as an essential African philosophy in his Africa's agenda book (1995).

South Africa

In 1999, Archbishop Desmond Tutu provided a definition in a book:

With Ubuntu, a person is available and open to others, confirming others, and doesn't feel vulnerable that others can and can't be available as a human being in separation. It tells about our interrelation. We can't be human by ourselves, and when we have this quality- Ubuntu- we are known for our goodness.

Nelson Mandela discussed Ubuntu below:

A traveler from a country will stop at any village, and he does not need to ask for water or food. When he stopped, the people attended to him and offered him food. That's a feature of Ubuntu; it will have many features. Ubuntu doesn't mean that people shouldn't address themselves. But the question is: Are we going to do so to let the community around us to be able to develop?

Ubuntu was referred to by Tim Jackson as a philosophy that supports the modifications; he says they are essential for creating a future that's sustainable environmentally and economically.


The majority used language is the Shona language in Zimbabwe. It is called ubuntu. The ubuntu concept is viewed as equivalent in Zimbabwe. The munhu munhu nekuda kwevanhu Shona phrase means a person is a human from others, while the ndiri nekuti tiri phrase means I am because we are.


  • In education
    Ubuntu has been used for promoting in guiding African education and for decolonizing it from western educational philosophies. This education uses spirituality, environment, society, community, and family as knowledge resources but also as learning and teaching media. The education essence is the environment, society, community, and family well-being.
    Ubuntu education is all about learners becoming focused on their social circumstances. Including, respect, recognition, participation, and interaction are essential features of Ubuntu education. Learning and teaching methods include community and group approaches. The outcomes, methodology, content, and objectives of education are organized by Ubuntu.
  • In development, welfare, and social work
    It refers to Afrocentric ways of offering a social safety net to threatened society members. Common components include collectivity. This approach supports "validate traditions and worldview suppressed by Western Eurocentric cultural hegemony". It's against individualism and materialism. It looks at any individual person as holistically. Besides, the social interventions implemented by social workers, development workers, and welfare workers should strengthen, not weaken environment, society, community, people's spirituality, and family.
    These are the five important Ubuntu intervention pillars: spirituality, environment, society, community, and family. Ubuntu is the latest theme for the Global Agenda for Social Development and Social Work and illustrates the highest global messaging level in the social work profession for 2020-2030. Using the ecological and biopsychological system methods, ubuntu is a philosophy that's usable in mental health in clinical social work.
  • In research
    Ubuntu can consult research objectives, methodology, and ethics. Ubuntu research method offers researchers an African-oriented resource that decolonizes research methodology and agenda. The ubuntu research objectives are to empower societies, communities, and families at large. The researcher position is essential because it supports establishing research relationships in doing ubuntu research.
  • In moral philosophy
    "Actions are roughly right insofar because they are a concept of living harmoniously with others or celebrating communal relationships" and "the ultimate goal of one should be to become a complete person, a genius human being", or a real self", according to this philosophy.
  • In leadership and politics
    In 1980, Samkange said foreign political philosophy could not be more helpful in a country than indigenous philosophies
  • In jurisprudence, criminal justice, and social justice
    Ubuntu justice has components distinct from western societies as it values recovering relationships. It focuses on the following components:
    • Distinction can be spiritually, economically, physically, or socially done.
    • Replacement and returning: means getting back what has been compensated, replaced, or stolen. In the Shona language, it is called kuripa and kudzora.
    • Reconciliation, forgiveness, and apology after meeting the above.
    • Punishments and warnings from elders and leaders if the above haven't been achieved or avoided.
    • Punishments and warnings from spiritual ones if the above haven't been satisfied. In Shona culture, they are known as ngozi and jambwa.

At times, communities and families are involved in the procedure of justice.

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