By Charlene Sutherland
In South Africa, giving is high among those of wealth and power but it extends beyond the rich
giving. Even those who have little that they can give in monetary value or goods are able to give
through their time and in some cases, hospitality. This rooted want to do for others is based on
the idea of humanness, also known as Ubuntu. Ubuntu guides many of the philanthropic actions
of others in South Africa and is considered one of two main reasons those in South Africa do
good works for others in the form of giving (Barclay’s Wealth, 2010).
What is Ubuntu?
Humanness, also known as Ubuntu in Zulu, is the idea that “I am because you are” (Mofid,
2012) or the idea that one is connected to others. This philosophy instills the idea that man
cannot function without others in their lives. Humanness in this capacity instills the moral values
of empathy, sympathy, togetherness, brotherhood, equality, sharing, compassion, respect,
tolerance, harmony, redistribution, obedience and happiness (Broodryk, 2006).
The Story of Ubuntu
One of the stories of Ubuntu that can be found is that of an anthropologist who was studying an
African tribe. The children in the tribe were tasked with getting a singular candy at the top of the
tree and when the children went to the tree, they went together. Perplexed by this, he asked
“Why did you go together?” and the children responded, “Ubuntu.” The children then split the
candy into pieces, each child eating their fair share. This represents both the spirit and the nature
of what Ubuntu means in that specific culture.
Ubuntu in Action Today
As of January 2013 one of South Africa’s richest men, Patrice Motsepe, has signed a pledge to
turn over half of his fortune to the poor, donating it to the Motsepe Foundation. This money that
he is donating will be used to provide for the poor, those who are unemployed, women, youth,
those who are disabled and workers (Tau, 2013). Patrice explained to those in attendance that his
influence came from Bill and Melinda Gates, his family and Ubuntu. Ubuntu was a philosophy
his family kept as well and Patrice cited that his mother used to give food to those who were
poor at the store that the family owned as well as how his family helped pay for the education of
children who were less fortunate (Tau, 2013). His actions showcased both philosophically
culturally how important Ubuntu had become to the people of South Africa as children are both
brought up seeing it happen and then have a chance to participate, either as adults or children, in
the spirit of it.
Barclay’s Wealth. (November 2010). Global Giving: The Culture of Philanthropy. Retrieved
Broodryk, J. (October 12-17th, 2006). Ubuntu African Life Coping Skills Theory and Pratice.
Retrieved from http://www.topkinisis.com/conference/CCEAM/wib/index/outline/
Mofid, K. (July 14th, 2012). ‘UBUNTU': “I am because we are”- The true path to true
happiness. Retrieved from http://www.gcgi.info/blog/237-ubuntu-qi-am-because-we-
Tau, P. (January 31st, 2013). Billionaire prepares ubuntu will legacy. Retrieved from