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Continent Must Reinforce Human Rights, Ubuntu

Resource type: News

BuaNews (South Africa) |

Original Source BuaNews (Tshwane) By Nthambeleni Gabara Pretoria There is a need to look at the human rights discourse and the African belief system in a complementary light, according to the National Heritage Council (NHC). Speaking at the two-day national debate to address African cultural practices and human rights on Thursday, NHC Chief Executive Officer, Sonwabile Mancotywa said reinforcing the message of human rights with an equal emphasis on Ubuntu is a point worth considering. Both concepts speak on the same subject with a similar objective, but accentuate different aspects. This also takes the focus away from the solitary wellbeing of oneself to others. According to Mr Mancotywa there is little emphasis on how individual actions relate to others, except when one violates the other person’s rights. “We only consider the next person if and when our actions are likely to harm others. Otherwise, most of the time, we continue to behave as if what we do has no bearing on the next person,” he said. He said popular acceptance and respect for common humanity may be undercut by the individual-centred nature of the discourse of human rights. Mr Mancotywa added that Ubuntu premises one’s humanity on how one relates to others, adding that one can only be human if one treats others humanly. His sentiments were also shared by Professor Joe Teffo from the University of Limpopo who said humanity is a shared existence and thus fully realised through harmonious relations with others. Both agreed that an Ubuntu based approach to rights is required to underscore common humanity. Mr Teffo said Africans should remain true to their culture and tradition, adding that the recent attacks on people from other countries negated everything the philosophy of Ubuntu stands for. The chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) Khosi Vho-Fhumulani Kutama also expressed his concern about the moral decay of Ubuntu. He said Ubuntu is the fundamental principle of the African identity culture which should be reinforced from the family level. “Our children do not have respect to the elderly anymore. There is a need for collective efforts to develop interests among the future generations about indigenous knowledge and the role of traditional leaders in our communities,” he said. One of the objectives of the national debate was to identify an understanding on the contradiction, conflict and tension between African cultural practices and human rights. Delegates attending the debate also reviewed the existing policies that impact on African cultural practices and human rights. They would also recommend new policy proposals towards the harmonisation and mitigation of the tension between the African cultural practices and human rights. Copyright © 2008 BuaNews. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (

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National Heritage Council, NHC