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How uBuntu fits into the South African Law

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How uBuntu fits into the South African Law

uBuntu is not the law in South Africa, but many of the core uBuntu values mirror those of the Constitution.

uBuntu is a concept that many South Africans hold dear. However, this concept is still not technically outlined within the South African legal system yet.

How uBuntu fits into the South African Law

South Africa’s proud status as a rainbow nation is manifested in many different ways – whether that be our now 12 official languages, the melting pot of music, food and entertainment, or even the South African legal system.

But while the South African constitution (including the Bill of Rights) outlines every legal aspect of our democracy, uBuntu is not technically included in the package.

uBuntu and the South African constitution

There is no concrete, broadly accepted definition for uBuntu just yet. But the concept of uBuntu can be broadly defined as a sense of morality or of personhood, where an individual exists because of their community and their existence is relative to that of the bigger whole (as defined in the phrase “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe”).

The concept of uBuntu has been varyingly classified as a social ideology, a philosophy of life, a belief system, a world-view and more.

And like many of the African concepts that we come across in our daily lives, uBuntu has proven quite tricky for scholars lawyers and law-makers to define over the years.

However, while there is no uBuntu section of the South African law specifically dedicated to outlining this concept and its regulations, there is simply no denying that the spirit of this hard-to-define concept is woven into the very fabric of the constitution.

After all, values like human dignity, equality, accountability, responsiveness, which are the values upon which the Constitution was created, mirror many of the values that uBuntu so broadly describes.

uBuntu and its values in other aspects of the law

uBuntu has also found its way into other aspects of the South African law (albeit somewhat under the radar).

Aspects of uBuntu are evident in everything from the laws regulating business enterprises to the rules around Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment.

And though there is technically still no official uBuntu rulebook – it is evident that this ideology also informs many of South Africa’s informal social and interpersonal interactions, contracts, debates, and disputes.

The call for legal pluralism

Overall, uBuntu does not have any official place in the South African legal system (beyond common law interpretations).

However, many experts argue that uBuntu deserves an official write-up in the country’s jurisprudence.

They claim that South Africa’s already-English law and Roman-Dutch law system should be reworked to include an indigenous law section, where many of the African world-views can be officially described and regulated.