Ubuntu Gone Wrong

I have been accused (and rightly so, to some extent) of being too pro-Africa, without acknowledging the negatives. Today I begin a series that unearths the CHALLENGES of African culture that we face, as we consider the healthy evolution of our continent. And what better place to start than my favourite of all…
If you haven’t already done so, please take the time to read the definition of Ubuntu, so that we’re all on the same page, otherwise the rest of this article might as well be written in ancient Uzbekistani.

Ubuntu is perfectly logical, and we all understand and accept it at a deep, Soul level, even though our minds might reject it because it is not practical in the urban society we have created.
Its importance in a healthy community is undeniable;
it is the essence of loving human relationship,
which is the essence of human existence,
which must be reached before we are ready to evolve to the level of being effective caretakers of Earth.

But there is a problem with Ubuntu…
when it goes wrong, it is a powerfully destructive force…
and it is currently wreaking havoc in South Africa (and Zambia, although I won’t go into the Zambian detail in this article).
Ubuntu ensures that we look after each other. Pretty Jesus-like, with his “love your neighbour as yourself” commandment. And it’s great, because this lifestyle ensures the holistic growth of a community, rather than a hierarchical one that divides and conquers. One potentially ‘negative’ aspect of this, in a world enslaved to the idea that time is finite and short, is that such holistic growth requires more time to establish its foundation. But, as we see in the Plant Kingdom, once the roots are set, the seedling shows itself and develops into a healthy tree in a remarkably short time. Because many hands make light work.
However, the extremely negative and dangerous aspect of the misuse of Ubuntu is best illustrated in South Africa.

In 1994, after decades of struggle and war, we won our freedom. And, besides the obvious reasons of great leaders, one of the keys in winning this struggle was the unity of the people.
But watch how it goes wrong from here…

When the ANC won governing power of the land, they got rid of the existing structures and government employees, and filled these seats with friends and family, who were pivotal in the struggle. This has become known as ‘Cadre Deployment’. All good, at first glance, because it showed that the leaders recognised how they could not have achieved victory without the many hands of support from around the country. But here’s the thing…
Problem 1: These brothers and sisters who were given important roles, did (and still do) not have the appropriate skills or knowledge of their predecessors, so they have been mostly incompetent in carrying out the tasks required, for successfully governing a nation.
Problem 2: Since most of these officials are friends and family members of someone higher up the food chain, they are protected by these individuals so that, even in their failure to deliver results, they can not be replaced. The recent R12billion unaccounted for by the Gauteng Department of Health is a good case in point. The faulty thinking here is that Ubuntu looks after one another, so we need to be patient in training individuals instead of replacing them. Now, while this – at first glance – sounds wonderfully Ubuntu-driven, it is in fact wonderfully NOT. And here’s why:

Ubuntu considers ALL people, without prejudice. It is the purpose of Ubuntu that ALL citizens be equally loved, nurtured, protected and empowered. But in this situation, while certain individuals in government are being protected under the guise of Ubuntu, service delivery to the masses continues to decline, so the masses continue to suffer, while a small and elite group is given opportunity.
This is the antithesis of Ubuntu… this is Muzungu… and we know how dangerously destructive Muzungu can be.

But it doesn’t end here…
there is more…
although I’ve hit my self-imposed 700-word limit for this article, so
Please subscribe to the Weekly Newsletter by filling out the form below, and you will be notified as soon as the follow-up blog is released. In the meantime, I hope that I have provided food for thought, and I welcome your thoughts and comments in the section provided for this, at the bottom of the page.
Until next time…

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