Tag Archive: South Africa

Patrice Motsepe and the southern African tradition of Ubuntu/Botho

sduncan post on January 29th, 2015
Posted in South Africa Tags: ,

By Jonathan Bunce

African philanthropy has been in the news recently, with the January 30th announcement that South African’s richest black citizen, Patrice Motsepe, will be giving away half of his family’s wealth during his and his wife Precious Motsepe’s lifetimes. This announcement was greeted with interest in North America, as Reuters reported that Motsepe is the first African philanthropist to sign up for The Giving Pledge. Founded in 2010 by leading U.S. philanthropists Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, The Giving Pledge is “an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death.”
The Founder and Executive Chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, a mining company with interests in gold, platinum, coal and ferrous metals, the 51-year-old Motsepe, whose personal worth is estimated at R22.99 billion ($2.58 billion CAD), said he was inspired not only by Buffet and Gates’ initiative but also by southern African traditions of generosity. In a press release announcing his pledge, Motsepe stated, “South Africans are caring, compassionate and loving people. It has always been part of our culture and tradition to assist and care for less fortunate and marginalised members of our communities. This culture is also embodied in the spirit and tradition of Ubuntu/Botho.”

Ubuntu is variously defined as a southern African humanism, philosophy, worldview, ethic or personal quality. Danish philosopher Christian B.N. Gade’s investigations showed references to Ubuntu began appearing in written sources in 1846, though until the mid-1900s, it was only used to define a human quality, before being applied more broadly to describe a philosophy or worldview. More recently, ubuntu was discussed considerably during transition from white minority to black majority rule in South Africa and Zimbabwe in the 1990s, and that “it was during the period from 1993 to 1995 that the Nguni proverb ‘umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’ (often translated as ‘a person is a person through other persons’) was used for the first time to describe what Ubuntu is.”

At its core, Ubuntu is the recognition that all people are interconnected and that no one exists in isolation. As the Nguni proverb suggests, in Ubuntu we discover our own selfhood through other people – through community, collaboration and co-operation; through openness, kindness and generosity towards others. Prominent South African public figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Nelson Mandela have both expressed admiration for the Ubuntu philosophy. In his 1999 book No Future, No Forgiveness, Tutu said: “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
While Ubuntu is a word in the Bantu language, Botho is the Botswanan word for the same concept in the Tswana language.

The generous spirit of Ubuntu can also be seen expressed in the philanthropic work of the Ubuntu Institute, who work towards the eradication of HIV/AIDS and poverty, the empowerment of women and providing access to education in Africa, and the Trust Africa Foundation, concerned with securing the conditions for democracy and cultivating African development, enterprise and properity, “through collaboration and partnerships with like-minded institutions and donors.”

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The Smile Foundation: Giving the Gift of a Smile

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in Africa Tags: , ,

by: Giuseppina Marchese

“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.” – Denis Waitley

South Africa is a nation with a rich history of philanthropy. Many charities in South Africa are based around the idea of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a word used to describe the notion that a person cannot exist without the help of their community; “I am; because of you” (May). Although the concept of Ubuntu has been around for centuries, it was introduced to the Western world in the 1990’s through the writings of Cape Town archbishop Desmond Tutu. Nelson Mandela was asked to define Ubuntu in a 2006 interview where he described it as being a traveler passing through a village and not having to ask for food or water because, just by stopping in a village, the villagers would give him the nourishment that he needed (May). Ubuntu reminds me of the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” in the sense that if a child is to grow and mature they will need the help of family and friends, teachers and principals, doctors and many other members of their community. The child will be because of the help of these people, Ubuntu.

The Smile Foundation is one of many South African charities that are based on the concept of Ubuntu. Started in 2000 as the Smile Fund, it came about when a parent wrote many letters to Nelson Mandela asking for his help to send their child overseas for Facial Reanimation surgery to correct the child’s facial paralysis (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). The Lubner family became involved and saw a potential for growth in the South African medical community. They brought the doctors who were performing these surgeries to South Africa to train South African doctors so that other children could benefit from the cosmetic procedure (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). The non-profit organization was renamed in 2013 as the Smile Foundation. Working with many South African doctors and nurses, the Smile Foundation literally puts smiles on the faces of children (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). They are allowing these children the gift to enjoy their childhood without being teased and tormented for their physical appearance. Because of this, I believe the Smile Foundation embodies the idea of Ubuntu. In a world that puts so much emphasis on physical beauty, these children would probably not be able to blossom to their full potential if not for the work of this foundation. They are saving the children from a lifetime of being teased and bullied, therefore helping them build their self-esteem and one day growing up to be successful adults.
Ubuntu has helped to make South Africa a better place. This concept of philanthropy was the basis to the Smile Foundation and who knows how many other South African charities. All nations should adopt the concept of Ubuntu: “I am; because of you.” People would be more inclined to give if they saw their donation as a thank you for all the work the community has done for them.

Works Cited
How smile foundation began. (2014). The Smile Foundation. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.smilefoundationsa.org/about-us/how-smile-foundation-began/
May, K.T. (2013, December 9). I am, because of you: Further reading on Ubuntu. Tedblog. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from http://blog.ted.com/2013/12/09/further-reading-on-ubuntu/

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The ubuntu world view: I am because we are

sduncan post on February 5th, 2013
Posted in South Africa Tags: ,

By Stacey Pickering

“No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of a continent, a part of the main. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind”
​~ Reverend John Donne (in Wanless, 2007)

South Africa is home to nearly 50 million people and is often referred as the “rainbow nation”, because of its rich cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity (Murithi, 2009). Colonization, followed by years of apartheid, Read the rest of this entry >>

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African Ubuntu and Its Influence on South African philanthropy

sduncan post on February 4th, 2013
Posted in South Africa Tags: ,

By Aleksandra D. Nikolic

Today South Africa (SA) is considered “the second-most charitable country, behind the United States.” In the post-Apartheid era wealthy South Africans have become both “Benefactor” and “Volunteer” donors – giving time and money to charities.

The reasons philanthropists in SA give, are varied. However, a belief in the African philosophy of ‘ubuntu’ is said to underlay the need to give. Read the rest of this entry >>

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Ubuntu: A South African perspective of philanthropy

sduncan post on January 29th, 2013
Posted in South Africa Tags: , , ,

By Ann Kearns

Ubuntu is an indigenous South African philosophy that recognizes there is an interconnection between all people and no one person exists in isolation. Every interaction with a person is an opportunity to explore our humanity (Kamwangamalu, Nkonko M. (1999). Ubuntu in South Africa: a sociolinguistic perspective to a Pan –African concept.) At the core of this philosophy is the desire for all persons to live a life that can bring positive change to other people in their family, community, village, city or country.

The history of ubuntu was not scribed like the Torah, etched like Egyptian hieroglyphics or written like the Bible. It is indigenous Read the rest of this entry >>

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