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In the beginning there was Muntu, person. Just a person, a thing. Muntu became woman, became man; got a name, identity. Muntu became u-Muntu thereby. Somebody. A unique individual.

©Simon Chilembo, 2014

©Simon Chilembo, 2014

U-Muntu became hungry, and began to need and crave for things to stay alive, as part of being a living entity. Some things u-Muntu could do alone and privately; others needed cooperation with other u-Muntus (read a-Bantu) in order to improve effectiveness and efficiency. Such arose roles and functions with rising complexity in how u-Muntu organized and structured co-existence with other a-Bantu, forming communities, society. Furthermore, to ensure sustenance and perpetuation of communities, which, with generations, would grow to nations as we know them today, u-Muntu devised the whats, the hows, the whens, and the whys of things. Thus arose geographical region specific rules, laws, customs, traditions, and cultures to ensure some degree of order and coherence in society.

In a perfect world, communities thrive on the common and mutual assumption that each and every unique u-Muntu understands that they exist and thrive in life due to the existence of other a-Bantu who are there for them in various roles and functions. Therefore, u-Muntu receives so that they can give at some point as time goes; u-Muntu shall be served now so that they can serve others later as, and when, need arises.

Buntu is a state, a condition, of being u-Muntu. Passive. On the other hand, U-Muntu is by definition action oriented. As an active community/ society member, u-Muntu will reflect certain unique qualities and deeds that set them apart, and may, or may not be, valuable to other a-Bantu. These qualities and deeds of u-Muntu highlight their u-Buntu. Therefore, u-Buntu is the dynamic nature of u-Muntu in their mutual from-birth-to-death interaction with others/ a-Bantu in society.

U-Buntu defines the dual dependency of u-Muntu and a-Bantu on one another other. This is summed up in the famous South African saying: UMUNTU NGU MUNTU NGA BANTU.

In its purest form, uBuntu is supposed to inspire but the very best in the individual’s relationship to/ with others at both the micro and macro levels. UBuntu is supposed to inspire virtue, reminding us to love and value life because, the reality is, we do not own life. We come to life to fill only a certain slot for only a certain predetermined time on earth. Our duty, obligation, and responsibility are to contribute in each our own small ways to making this life and world a better journey and place for all, in our times and beyond.

Confusion arises, therefore, when today uBuntu is a business brand name ranging from computer operating systems, soft drinks, to special interests groups and organizations. Capitalism has raped us of the very last philosophical postulate for our raison d’être in South Africa.

How shall we work further with, for example, reconciliation in our country when now UMUNTU NGUMUNTU NGO KOMPUTA?


Simon Chilembo
South Africa
Tel.: +27 717 454 115
June 18, 2014





1 Comment

  1. […] regular source of income all this time. In my response, I thanked the people, reminding them that Ubuntu in action works in many ways. To get to work the way I did with Elizabeth, as well as the clinical […]

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