The Spirit of Ubuntu

Ubuntu is an African philosophy that highlights being human through other people. It has been applied in philosophy by Arch bishop Desmond Tutu and in politics by former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Ubuntu language

Ubuntu derives from the Nguni and Bantu languages of Africa.

Being “Human”

Zulu(South Africa)umuntu
Tanzania bumuntu
Mozambique vumuntu
Xhosa(South Africa)umntu
the concept of being human (Ubuntu) expressed by some languages in Africa

The concept of I am because we all are or Ubuntu is referred to as “motho ke motho ka batho” in the Setswana language (Botswana) and it is highly valued as one of Botswana’s national principles together with democracy, development, self-reliance and unity. It is also referred to as “ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” in isiZulu (South Africa).

Botho is one of the highly valued national principles of Botswana

Applicability of Ubuntu Philosophy

Linux has developed an Ubuntu software and is based on the sharing tenet of Ubuntu. Madonna named her film “I am because we are” on Malawi orphans. Bill Clinton used the term Ubuntu to call for people centeredness in Labour Party policy when he addressed the party’s conference in 2006.

Ubuntu symbolises the backbone of African spirituality. It is the essence of being human.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu 2000

Ubuntu brings to the world what Western civilisation failed to bring, which is the human face to every aspect of life

African Journal of Social work 3(1) August 2013

Words describing the presence of Ubuntu include sympathy, compassion, benevolence, solidarity, hospitality, generosity, sharing, openness, affirming,available, kindness, caring,harmony, interdependence, obedience, collectivity and consensus. Ubuntu is opposite to vengeance, confrontation, retribution.

Each individual’s humanity is ideally expressed through his or her relationship with others and theirs in return through recognition of the individual’s humanity

African Journal of Social work 3(1) August 2013


Archbishop Desmond Tutu 2000

African Journal of Social work 3(1) August 2013

A long walk to freedom. Mandela 1994