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An Afrocentric enquiry on lived experience of ubuntu among IsiZulu-speaking persons from different geographic areas, South Africa.

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In post-apartheid South Africa, the term Ubuntu has come to be popularised and thus politicised by the governing party (Coertze, 2001; Dolam, 2013). This has been done in an effort to evoke a sense of unity in the South African populace and thus aid in nation building (Nkondo, 2007). However, in order for Ubuntu to be a governing value embraced by South Africans and assimilated into South African society, a clear definition and understanding is required so that it may have practical application in day to day life. Such practical information seems to be largely missing in literature. It was therefore the objective of the following Afrocentric, explorative study to investigate how the concept of Ubuntu is subjectively defined, understood and applied by people in everyday life. In an effort to gain detailed data, the study focussed on eight isiZulu-speaking persons from two geographic areas in KwaZulu-Natal – the suburban areas surrounding Durban, and an informal settlement in Pietermaritzburg. Both commonalities and discrepancies were discovered and explored in the narratives of Ubuntu between the two areas under study. In addition, a multiplicity of insights into the nature and practice of Ubuntu were discovered. It was found that Ubuntu denotes the quality of being a person made possible through humane relationships with other people, and that being a person simultaneously implies interconnection and morality. In addition, it was found that participants conceptualised Ubuntu as inclusive of all human-beings, but practiced Ubuntu in a more exclusive manner. Such discoveries facilitated a comprehensive discussion around Ubuntu – the positives, potential downfalls, affecting variables and possibilities. The aim of this work is to continue both the development of Afrocentric research in South Africa, as well as the body of knowledge around Afrocentric topics such as Ubuntu, thus assisting in the effective application of African knowledge in Africa.


Master of Social Science in Psychology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2017.