A Christian Theological Critique Of uBuntu In Swaziland -- By: Neville Curle

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 20:1 (Sep 2015)
Article: A Christian Theological Critique Of uBuntu In Swaziland
Author: Neville Curle

A Christian Theological Critique Of uBuntu In Swaziland

Neville Curle1


This article hopes to open a biblical discussion on the African philosophy of Ubuntu2. The discourse critiques the current Swazi praxis—both from a traditional and postmodern perspective; gives a better understanding of uBuntu (especially in its rural context where patriarchalism and the Ancestral cult are so conspicuous); provides a biblical evaluation, and considers whether Ubuntu could be defended as a universal philosophy. Having reviewed the Swazi praxis, the article considers Paul’s statement in Romans 2:14-15 regarding God’s law being written on the hearts of all mankind. The paper argues that the statement refers to the so-called Golden Rule (Matt 22:37-39), which appears to have been prevalent throughout the primordial cultures. The research concludes that Ubuntu is only viable within a community that upholds the principle of sacrificial brotherly love as advanced by Christ Jesus.

1. Introduction

Much has been written about the potential of the worldview of uBuntu to bring about change to the individualistic and hedonistic view of the Western world. Some advocates believe that this would empower Africans to take back their self-image—lost through the ravages of colonialism. While many academics are proclaiming the worldview’s ethical correctness, there is little biblical commentary on uBuntu itself. One of the African countries in which traditional uBuntu is still practised is the Kingdom of Swaziland. There are a number of reasons for this, but for brevity this author will focus on only two. Firstly, the traditional Swazi way of life has been actively safeguarded by King Sobhuza II and his successor, King Mswati III. Secondly, the vast majority of Swazis can trace their ancestry back to fifteen Nguni clans with a common language—siSwati. Thus, this close-knit society is uniquely appropriate to study the impact of both the praxis of uBuntu in Southern Africa and to consider whether the traditional praxis could be construed as the philosophy of Ubuntu currently promoted by many academics. In doing so, this study will:

  1. Review the traditional Swazi praxis of uBuntu.
  2. Consider the impact that modernity is having on the society in living out their understanding of uBuntu.
  3. Biblically critique uBuntu with special reference to that society. In so doing, both the negative and positive aspects will be highlighted with a ...
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