The erosion of African communal values: a reappraisal of the African Ubuntu philosophy

  • NN Mabovula
Keywords: Community, communalism, African humanity, African philosophy, Ubuntu


The paper, which exploits conceptual analysis techniques, interrogates an African notion of a ‘community’ as embodied in the ideas of ‘Umntu ngumntu ngabantu.’ The problem the article seeks to address is the erosion of community values. The study intends to explore the question: How can we retrieve the communal cultural values of tolerance, humanity, respect and some of common elements of our cultural treasures of Ubuntu that African communities used to be proud of? Using the philosophy of Ubuntu as a hermeneutic key, I argue that any member of a community whose personal life is guided by Ubuntu could be said to have embraced the core humanistic attributes of Ubuntu. These are being caring, humble, thoughtful, considerate, understanding, wise, generous, hospitable, socially mature, socially sensitive, virtuous, and blessed: character attributes that veer away from confrontation towards conciliation. The paper is based on a small scale survey, which exploited an open ended questionnaire in its data collection. Data revealed that despite major constraints such as poverty and scarcity of resources, crime, substance abuse and many others, family members are still willing to help and support each other. Finally, the study suggests that the values of Ubuntu, if consciously harnessed, can play a major unifying role in the process of harmonising the South African/African nation(s). Key words: Community, communalism, African humanity, African philosophy, Ubuntu.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2077-8317
print ISSN: 2077-2815