The lesson from ubuntu in the intellectual history of contemporary South Africa is a confluence of multiples perspectives. Ubuntu is not proposed as a substitute to democracy, but given a performative role in reforming the inadequacies of past historical cleavages of national building. My plea is that even as we lay claim on ubuntu as part of our cultural heritage, we should nevertheless acknowledge and be aware that it is a heritage not self-sufficient by itself and therefore not a solution to all our socioeconomic and political problems. Ubuntu must be reevaluated and integrated to adapt to the changing sociopolitical and economic circumstances. In the Sunday Times editorial of October 27, 1996, Makgoba (1996) argued persuasively on the limitations of Western liberal democracy within the context of its application in sub-Saharan Africa. Accordingly, he would propose ubuntu as a substitute for South Africa:
South Africa, as part of Africa, has one big civilization and one heritage; the African civilization, underpinned by the philosophy of African ubuntu. Ubuntu is unique in the following respects: it emphasizes respect for the non-material order that exists in us and among us; it fosters man’s respect for himself, for others, and for the environment; it has spirituality; it has remained non-racial; it accommodates other cultures and it is the invisible force uniting Africans worldwide.
(Enslin and Horsthemke 2004:547)
- Public Discourse
- Political Culture
- Restorative Justice
- Historical Culture
- Social Morality
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© 2010 Michael Onyebuchi Eze
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Eze, M.O. (2010). Ubuntu: Toward a New Public Discourse. In: Intellectual History in Contemporary South Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230109698_9
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