Xenophobic attacks in South Africa: an ethical response – Have we lost the underlying spirit of Ubuntu?


In this paper, I am troubled by the xenophobic situation that has come to characterise Black South Africans to the point of overshadowing any goodness South Africa has collectively achieved. The paper attempts to initiate an objective debate on the possible reasons, both for the acts of xenophobia and (passive) complicity with it. The paper closely analyses these reasons and suggests a way forward. The authors do not attempt to judge those labelled xenophobic but challenge politicians and the elite to come out and speak out against such attitudes and behaviour. In other words, political leaders are called upon to take a moral position and condemn the so-called xenophobic acts more strongly than they have done until now. Accordingly, I ask a question: “Have we lost the underlying spirit of Ubuntu ”expressed in motho ke motho ka batho ba bang”. The author offers his own understanding of this Ubuntu spirit, in the hope of making sense of what Ubuntu entails in the present context. In other words, the paper challenges political leaders, religious leaders and even traditional leaders in our communities to speak-out with one voice and defend the ideals of Ubuntu.

Mojalefa Lehlohonolo, Johannes Koenane