1. Vision
    2. Values
    3. Rights
    1. The National Flag
    2. The National Anthem
    3. The National Coat of Arms
    1. Nelson Mandela
    2. Desomnd Tutu
    1. Our sporting achievements
    2. The FIFA World Cup 2010
    1. South Africa’s World Heritage Sites
    2. South Africa – the cradle of modern man
    3. South Africa’s natural beauty
    4. South Africa’s natural resources
    1. Economic achievements
    2. Social achievements
    3. Business achievements
  10. UBUNTU
    1. Service organizations
    2. The Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards
    3. NGOs



The F W de Klerk Foundation decided to dedicate its second 2 February conference to the theme of the things that unite us as South Africans.   In doing so, it is not our intention to pretend that there are not many issues that still divide us – or that South Africa is not faced with enormous challenges and problems.   None of us can escape the reality of continuing inequality; massive unemployment; dismal educational performance; service delivery problems, crime and corruption.  We cannot avoid these realities because they confront us every time we open a newspaper or watch the evening news or sit down to dinner with our friends.

However, in the process we are sometimes inclined to forget the enormous progress that we have made in the past twenty years; we do not remember the seemingly hopeless situation of the mid-80s from which all escaped; and we lose sight of the many things that unite us as South Africans.

Our objective is accordingly to draw attention to the unifying forces in our society and to the enormous progress that we have made since 1994.   We have identified the following unifying forces: firstly,  our remarkable achievement in succeeding to solve our intractable historic conflict through peaceful negotiations; secondly, the excellent Constitution that emerged from the negotiations;  thirdly, the national symbols that we have adopted since 1994; fourthly, the unifying role played by national icons like Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu;  fifthly, the role that sport – and particularly the 2010 FIFA World Cup – has played in promoting national unity;  sixthly and seventhly the pride that we share in our country and in our achievements; eighthly, the role or religion in uniting us;  ninthly, the reality that whether we like it or not we are all mutually dependent; and lastly, the fact that South Africans really do practise Ubuntu through the daily caring, sharing  and contributions of millions of our people.


F W de Klerk




Some countries are born nations; some achieve nationhood and some have nationhood thrust upon them.

Traditionally, the nation state was a geographic unit that included a single homogenous population with common cultural, linguistic, religious and historical roots.   Such nations generally had little trouble in establishing firm foundations for national unity.   Their peoples spoke the same languages; revered the same heroes; commemorated the same historic events; and participated in the same cultural festivities and traditions.

Some peoples have achieved nationhood on the basis of shared conventions.  A prime example is the United States where the original indigenous population was swamped by tens of millions of immigrants from Europe, Africa, Latin America and – more recently – Asia.  They came together on the basis of the political freedom that was guaranteed in the Constitution and the economic freedom that was isorgani in free markets.  Everyone accepted English as the common language, even though Germans comprise the largest ancestral group.  On this basis Americans have developed an overarching identity;  a strong sense of national unity; and genuine patriotism – regardless of their original countries of origin.

Other peoples had nationhood thrust upon them.  Among these are most of the countries of Africa whose borders were drawn by European imperialists in Berlin in 1885 with scant or no consideration of the populations involved.  Some ethnic groups were artificially divided by the new borders; others were arbitrarily lumped together with traditional enemies.  The border between Kenya and Tanzania still has a kink around Mt Kilimanjaro, because Queen Victoria reportedly wanted to give her nephew, the Kaiser, the continent’s highest mountain, as an imperial birthday present. Many of Africa’s recent and continuing conflicts have had their roots in these artificial borders.

The Old South Africa had nationhood thrust upon it in 1910 when the Union of South Africa was created.    During the preceding century Britain – in what the historian Sir John Seeley described as a fit of absent-mindedness – gained dominion over most of southern Africa.   Indeed, the central theme during this period was the relentless conquest by Britain of the three dominant independent peoples of the region – first the Xhosa, then the Zulus and finally, the Afrikaners.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Britain found itself in possession of an untidy – and often vexatious – ragbag of territories and colonies in the sub-continent.  What to do with them?  It concluded that the best solution would be to apply the prescription that had recently worked so well in Canada and Australia, where separate colonies had been consolidated into tidy federations.  Why not try the same approach in South Africa?

Unfortunately, the situations were entirely different: in Canada and Australia the indigenous populations were small and isorganized and the settlers – with various admixtures of English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh – shared the same broad British culture and values.  In South Africa the indigenous population was a large majority that comprised coherent and formidable nations (the Zulus had, after all, inflicted a crushing defeat on the British army at Ishlandwana in 1878).  The white population was fractious and had only just emerged from a devastating war that had laid waste much of the country and killed a sizable portion of the Afrikaner population.  There was no common language; no common history; and few common aspirations.  Worse still – without any consultation and without their consent – sovereignty over the black national groups was transferred to white South Africans whose main interests lay in warding off any political and economic threat that their new subjects might pose.

There was no basis for national unity.  The subsequent fifty years were marked by a continuing struggle for dominance between the two white peoples – with Afrikaners intent on re-establishing their lost republics and English-speaking South Africans determined to maintain their ties with Britain.

With the independence of most of the African colonies after 1960 the political focus shifted from disunity between the white communities to the growing tensions and divisions with black South Africans.   One’s politics were determined by one’s definition of who comprised the South African nation:  for rightwing Afrikaners, the nation was the ‘volk’; for moderate Afrikaners and for most English-speaking South Africans, the nation comprised whites.  For liberal whites and for the ANC it was everyone in South Africa.  For the PAC it was the blacks.

From the 1960s onward, these different perceptions of who constituted the South African nation led to deepening division and escalating conflict.  The National Party – in pursuit of its ideology of ethnic self-determination – tried to impose separate nationalities on all South Africa’s constituent peoples.  However, its approach –  which allocated only 13% of the country to 79% of the people and severely restricted the rights of ‘non-whites’ living in the so-called  ‘white areas’ (the remaining 87% of the country) – was vehemently rejected by the majority of South Africans

During the mid-1980s South Africa experienced escalating internal conflict and tightening international isolation.  By 1986 the National Party had begun to accept that its policies had failed;  that attempts to ‘reform apartheid’ would not succeed – and that the country’s problems could be addressed only by accepting the principle of a united, non-racial South Africa in which all citizens would enjoy equal constitutional rights.

In 1990,  representatives of all  South Africa’s communities came together to try to create a new national framework in which all the people who inhabited the country would be included on a basis of equality and mutual respect.  They reached agreement on common values and aspirations as well as on the rights that all South Africans should enjoy.  They agreed that all our languages should enjoy parity of esteem and that everyone should have the right to practise the culture and use the language of their choice.  These agreements were enshrined in the 1993 and 1996 Constitutions.

In effect, South Africans succeeded in changing their country from one onto which nationhood had been thrust, into one in which nationhood and unity would be achieved on the basis of shared values and aspirations.  Like the United States, they wanted to unite peoples from widely diverging cultures and histories on the basis of the values, vision and rights that are articulated a written Constitution.



The foundations of our national unity were laid in the critical years between 1989 and 1994.

During this period South Africans said ‘No!’ to the violence and escalating conflict that were tearing the country apart.  After centuries of conflict and division they reached across the political and racial barriers that divided them and slowly, tentatively began to engage with  one another as fellow South Africans.

They entered into a process of negotiations that included representatives of all the political parties with significant support in South Africa.  Everybody  was welcome  to participate.

For the first time in their history all South Africans spoke to one another as equals about the future of our country.  The more they talked, the more they discovered that the perceptions they had developed of one another were based on stereotypes.  They found that the vast majority of South Africans wanted similar things:  they wanted peace; freedom; justice, equality,  a better life for their children; economic prosperity; decent jobs; proper education; and peaceful coexistence with South Africans from other communities.  Naturally, they differed on how these goals should be achieved – and they continued to argue about the past: but increasingly they were united about the kind of future they wanted for themselves and for their children.

It was there – in the negotiating forums of CODESA and the NATIONAL NEGOTIATING FORUM  – that South Africans began to find one another and to lay the foundation for a new, overarching national unity.  The first major commitment to national unity was included in the CODESA Declaration of Intent which was adopted in December, 1991.

“….an undivided South Africa with one nation sharing a common citizenship, patriotism and loyalty, pursuing amidst our diversity, freedom, equality and security for all irrespective of race, colour, sex or creed; a country free from apartheid or any other form of discrimination or domination.”



We, the duly authorised representatives of political parties, political organizations, administrations and the South African Government, coming together at this first meeting of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, mindful of the awesome responsibility that rests on us at this moment in the history of our country,

declare our solemn commitment:

·       to bring about an undivided South Africa with one nation sharing a common citizenship, patriotism and loyalty, pursuing amidst our diversity, freedom, equality and security for all irrespective of race, colour, sex or creed; a country free from apartheid or any other form of discrimination or domination;

·       to work to heal the divisions of the past, to secure the advancement of all, and to establish a free and open society based on democratic values where the dignity, worth and rights of every South African are protected by law;

·       to strive to improve the quality of life of our people through policies that will promote economic growth and human development and ensure equal opportunities and social justice for all South Africans;

·       to create a climate conducive to peaceful constitutional change by eliminating violence, intimidation and destabilization and by promoting free political participation, discussion and debate;

·       to set in motion the process of drawing up and establishing a constitution that will ensure, inter alia:

  1. that South Africa will be a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist state in which sovereign authority is exercised over the whole of its territory;
  2. that the Constitution will be the supreme law and that it will be guarded over by an independent, non-racial and impartial judiciary;
  3. that there will be a multi-party democracy with the right to form and join political parties and with regular elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage on a common voters roll; in general the basic electoral system shall be that of proportional representation;
  4. that there shall be a separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary with appropriate checks and balances;
  5. that the diversity of languages, cultures and religions of the people of South Africa shall be acknowledged;
  6. that all shall enjoy universally accepted human rights, freedoms and civil liberties including freedom of religion, speech and assembly protected by an entrenched and justiciable Bill of Rights and a legal system that guarantees equality of all before the law.

We agree:

  1. that the present and future participants shall be entitled to put forward freely to the Convention any proposal consistent with democracy.
  2. that CODESA will establish a mechanism whose task it will be, in co-operation with administrations and the South African Government, to draft the texts of all legislation required to give effect to the agreements reached in CODESA.

We, the representatives of political parties, political organizations and administrations, further solemnly commit ourselves to be bound by the agreements of CODESA and in good faith to take all such steps as are within our power and authority to realise their implementation.  We, the South African Government, declare ourselves to be bound by agreements we reach together with other participants in CODESA in accordance with the standing rules and hereby commit ourselves to the Implementation thereof within our capacity, powers and authority.


 Finally, on 20 December 1993 – and despite violence, assassinations and walk-outs by leading parties – the National Negotiating Forum reached agreement on an Interim Constitution.   For the first time in history all South Africans would enjoy full and equal rights in a non-racial constitutional democracy.  After more than 350 years, the foundations had a last been laid for national unity and reconciliation.

 The successful outcome of the constitutional negotiations and the peaceful resolution of the seemingly hopeless conflict and division that had characterized so much of South African history were widely regarded by the international community as a ‘miracle’.   Apart from establishing the prospect of peace, harmony and prosperity for South Africans, our peaceful transformation was an inspiration to divided societies everywhere.

 The pursuit of national unity, the well-being of all South African citizens and peace require reconciliation between the people of South Africa and the reconstruction of society.


National Unity and Reconciliation                            (the closing paragraph of the 1993 Constitution)

This Constitution provides a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief or sex. The pursuit of national unity, the well-being of all South African citizens and peace require reconciliation between the people of South Africa and the reconstruction of society.

The adoption of this Constitution lays the secure foundation for the people of South Africa to transcend the divisions and strife of the past, which generated gross violations of human rights, the transgression of humanitarian principles in violent conflicts and a legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge.

These can now be addressed on the basis that there is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu but not for victimisation.

In order to advance such reconciliation and reconstruction, amnesty shall be granted in respect of acts, omissions and offences associated with political objectives and committed in the course of the conflicts of the past. To this end, Parliament under this Constitution shall adopt a law determining a firm cut-off date, which shall be a date after 8 October 1990 and before 6 December 1993, and providing for the mechanisms, criteria and procedures, including tribunals, if any, through which such amnesty shall be dealt with at any time after the law has been passed.

With this Constitution and these commitments we, the people of South Africa, open a new chapter in the history of our country.

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika. God seën Suid-Afrika

Morena boloka sechaba sa heso. May God bless our country

Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afrika. Hosi katekisa Afrika



The Interim Constitution provided the framework for South Africa’s first fully democratic and inclusive national elections on 27 April 1994. 

The National Assembly that South Africans elected in April, 1994 also sat as a Constitutional Assembly which was tasked with the responsibility of drawing up a final Constitution.  As required by the 1993 Constitution, the new Constitution would have to comply with 35 immutable constitutional principles.  The newly established Constitutional Court would have to certify that the new constitution complied with these principles before it could come into effect.

The 1996 Constitution is significant for the establishment of national unity because it went beyond establishment of the structures required for democratic government:  it also articulated the values on which the new South Africa would be built and presented a national vision toward which all South Africans should aspire.

The 1996 Constitution, in a very real sense, is a solemn accord which creates the basis for our national unity.



In the Preamble, the Constitution spells out a vision of the kind of society that we should become:

“We, therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic, so as to:



According tot he Founding Provisions of the Constitution “the Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on the following values”:




In addition, our national unity is based on the enjoyment of the following 27 rights:




The National Flag was first flown on 27 April 1994.  The flag includes combinations of colours that resonate with the history of all South Africa’s communities.  The V form converging into a single horizontal band is indicative of the unification of South Africa’s various peoples.  The flag was designed by Fred Brownell, the head of the former heraldic unit.



The National Anthem is also a manifestation of the unification of South Africa’s different historic traditions.

Its first two stanzas nclude, in isiXhosa, isiZulu and Sesotho the beautiful hymn, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika that was composed by Enoch Sontonga in 1897.  The thirs and fourth stanzas, in Afrikaans and English, come from South Africa’s old national anthem Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The Call of South Africa) which was written by CJ Langenhoven in 1918 with music composed by the Rev M L de Villiers in 1921.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
(God Bless Africa)
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,
(Raise high Her glory)
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
(Hear our Prayers)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo
(God bless us, we her children)

(isiXhosa and isiZulu)

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
(God protect our nation)
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
(End all wars and tribulations)
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
(Protect us, protect our nation)
Setjhaba sa South Afrika – South Afrika.
(Our nation South Africa – South Africa)


Uit die blou van onse hemel,
(Ringing out from our blue heavens)
Uit die diepte van ons see,
(From the depth of our seas)
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
(Over our everlasting mountains)
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
(Where the echoing crags resound)


Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.



Unity is also the central theme of the National Coat of Arms.  The motto : !ke e: /xarra //ke, means “diverse people unite” in the /Xam Khoisan language. The central figures are derived from rock paintings illustrating San figures speaking to one another.  The elephant tusks represent wisdom and strength and the Secreatry Bird  is a symbol of majesty and protection.

The Coat of Arms also serves as the Great Seal of South Africa and is used by the President to approve official documents.  The present National Coat of Arms came into effect on 27 April 2000.





“Each of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

Nelson Mandela dedicated much of his presidency to reconciliation and the promotion of national unity.   He earned the admiration of many white South Africans when he went to the Afrikaner settlement of Orania on 4 September 1995 to have a cup of tea with Betsie Verwoerd, the widow of Hendrik Verwoerd who had been one of the prime architects of apartheid.  He also visited former President P W Botha at his retirement home in the Wilderness.

President Mandela’s most memorable gesture of reconciliation came at the final match of the 1995 Rugby World Cup when he donned the Springbok rugby jersey – despite the rejection of the springbok emblem by many of his own supporters,



It was Desmond Tutu who created the definitive image of South Africa’s unity in diversity – the image of the Rainbow People of God.  The image encapsulates the beauty of diversity in the harmony and promise of the rainbow.

President Mandela endorsed the image in a speech in May, 1994, soon after assuming the Presidency

Archbishop Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, was also the Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  When he presented the TRC Report to President Mandela on 29 October 1998 he concluded with the following remarks:

 “We will have looked the beast in the eye. We will have come to terms with our horrendous past and it will no longer keep us hostage. We will cast off its shackles and, holding hands together, black and white will stride into the future, the glorious future God holds out before us – we who are the Rainbow people of God – and looking at our past we will commit ourselves: Never again!  Nooit weer nie! Ngeke futhi! Ga reno tlola!” 


  1. SPORT

Sport has been one of the most powerful unifying factors for the emerging multicultural South African nation.



(Excerpt from a speech that F W de Klerk delivered in London on 8 September 2010). 

Six years ago the Fairy Godmother – in the guise of Sepp Blatter –  waved a magic wand, and announced that South Africa had been chosen to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  For the first time in history, Africa – the Cinderella continent – had been chosen to host the world’s premier sporting event.  

 Mind you, had it not been for a little legerdemain and the mysterious voting of the FIFA representative from Oceana, South Africa – and not Germany – would have hosted the preceding World Cup in 2006.  President Nelson Mandela who had attended the announcement in 1999 with great expectations, remarked laconically “Ah well… there evidently were some aspects of the end game that we South Africans did not fully understand.”  So, in 2004, it was Africa’s turn. Sepp Blatter had all but promised that no more ugly first-world stepsisters would be permitted to jump the queue.

 From that moment the countdown started. Would South Africa be able to make the grade?  Would an African country actually be able to deliver a top class world event?   Would we be able to turn our third world pumpkins and mice into of the glittering stadiums, airports and infrastructure that the event would require?  The world was sceptical.  We heard again the old familiar choruses that precede all major global sporting events, wherever they are held:  The stadiums would not be ready; security was inadequate; the infra-structure of airports, railways and roads would simply not be able to cope.

Despite all this, Danny Jordaan, the Chairman of the local organizing committee, and his team made steady progress.  Magnificent new stadiums were built – and old ones were renovated and refurbished. New highways and rapid transit systems were constructed.  South Africa’s major airports were vastly expanded and modernized.  After years of being cocooned in hoardings and scaffolds, Cape Town’s new international airport emerged just before the World Cup like a gigantic crystal butterfly.  In our major cities large clocks counted down the days to the opening match on 11 June.  

Our leading companies jumped onto the bandwagon and helped to sweep up national support.  Government, opposition, religious and civil society leaders embraced one another and exhorted the nation to make a success of the event.  Unprecedented security arrangements were made and special courts were established to dispense swift justice to law-breakers.  

In the process, South Africans also learned that the FIFA fairy godmother was not motivated solely by altruism.  She made it clear that she – and she alone – would choose Cinderella’s ball gown and accessories.  Apparently unconcerned about any practical implications, Sepp Blatter insisted that the Cape Town Stadium should be built in Green Point – because he thought it would look pretty with Table Mountain as its backdrop.  The City would rather have upgraded the existing Newlands Stadium – or  built a new stadium at Culembourg, close to existing rail and road routes.  However, FIFA was adamant that it would either be Green Point – or there would be no games in Cape Town at all.

Nevertheless, it worked.  

For a glorious month South Africans laid down the burden of our divided history and joined one another in a magnificent national festival.   

Once we had been knocked out, South Africans switched their allegiance whole-heartedly and without reservation to Africa’s best remaining hope, Ghana.  Black South Africans were surprised that nearly all whites identified with Africa – with Baghana, Baghana – rather than with England or some other European country

But as with all fairy tales the clock struck twelve.  Cinderella had to scurry down the palace steps, and confront again the harsh realities of our national life.  The party was over.  The bunting was removed.  Our national attention shifted from the empty stadiums to the continuing poverty and inequality in which too many South Africans continue to live.  The vuvuzelas were silent.  Strident voices again began to dominate the national discourse.      

Nevertheless, during those four weeks we had successfully changed international perceptions of our country.  

Unfortunately, since then we South Africans have been attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.  On the soccer field of international opinion we have been resolutely scoring one own goal after another.  The situation is back to normal.  Cinderella is back in the kitchen, sitting on the ash-heap.  The FIFA fairy godmother has flown off to her next assignment in Brazil – weighed down by almost two hundred million dollars in profits.   The Afro-pessimists have returned in strength, confident that South Africa’s World Cup success was just a flash in the pan.  

 However, we South Africans have always been much more realistic than that.

 We did not expect that the World Cup would change the underlying realities of South Africa – and it did not.   Anyone who expected such outcomes would really have to believe in fairy tales.

 However, by the same token, all these developments have not seriously undermined the strengths that made the World Cup success possible.  I am confident that we will once again prove the pessimists wrong.

 The glorious weeks of the FIFA World Cup are receding further and further into our collective memory – but some things will remain,

 As we all know, Cinderella, in her headlong flight down the palace steps, left something of her magic behind in the form of the crystal slipper that was retrieved by Prince Charming.    The FIFA World Cup left us with a similar magic legacy:  it is the shining vision of the brilliant, multifaceted nation we can and will become.



 Almost 80% of South Africans are Christians; 1.5% are Moslems and there is a strong Jewish community.  Many South Africans also continue to follow traditional beliefs.

 The fact that so many South Africans share a common faith is also a source of unity that transcends ethnic differences.   All the world’s major religions attach central importance to charity and to obligations to assist the poor and the needy.

 80% of cash charitable donations and 60% of donations of food and goods are channeled through churches  – and Moslem and Jewish religious organizations.  Cash donations to religious organizations amount to almost R750 million per month.  Donations of money, goods and time through religious organizations represent the main channel through which South Africans of all races help their less fortunate compatriots.  Most of the donations go the poor, to children and to people with AIDS.    The following are some examples:






Some of the earliest remains of modern man (homo sapiens) dating from 120 00 BC.  They include

It is now generally accepted that the Khoisan people of southern Africa have the oldest mitochondrial DNA of all humans that can be traced back 120 000 years.  This suggests that modern humans came origionally from southern Africa.





South Africa has some of the most beautiful beaches, mountains and natural spectacles in the world.









According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Compteitiveness Report (2010-11)



South Africa has a track record in developing world-class companies – particularly in mining, banking, insurance, luxury goods and retail.  The following companies are  South African or are closely associated with South Africa:




South Africa’s collective future depends on the ability of all our people to understand that the success of black South Africa is conditional on the success of white South Africa, and that the success of white South Africa is conditional on the success of black South Africa”.     President Thabo Mbeki,  February 2005

One of the main factors that led to the collapse of apartheid was the growing awareness of economic interdependence between black and white South Africans.  The absurdity of the idea that blacks and whites would be able to pursue separate economic destinies became apparent during 70s with the accelerating integration of the economy brought about by economic growth.  Dependence of white businesses on black workers made it essential for the Government to reform South Africa’s labour system at the end of the 70s.  The extension of real trade union rights to black workers  following the Wiehahn reforms was a major step in the direction of the establishment of a non-racial South Africa.

In the new South Africa the economic, political and social destinies of South Africans of all races and all sectors of the economy are inextricably intertwined.  It is impossible to imagine continuing economic growth and social development without the active participation of all our communities.

The symbiotic relationship between  all sectors of the economy led to the decision to estblash NEDLAC in 1995 as a forum for consulation and communication between government, labou, business and civil society.

 “Government, organised labour, organised business and community-based organisations need to develop and strengthen cooperative mechanisms to address the challenges facing our new democracy.” 

“It does not matter whether you shoot a zebra in a white or a black stripe: the result is the same.” Old saying.



One of the strongest forces uniting South Africans is that we actually do practise Ubuntu.  We care about one another – regardless of race, religion or cultural background.

According to an old Zulu maxim umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – “a person is a person through (other) persons”.  It is only by acting with humanity toward one’s fellow man that a person can be one with the spirit of his people and be worthy of veneration after his death.

This is the essence of the African spirit of shared humanity that is known as ‘ubuntu’.  According to Archbishop Tutu Ubuntu ‘speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity’.

And yet it is not simply an African version of socialism.  Nelson Mandela says that one aspect of Ubuntu was that strangers visiting a village would automatically be offered food and entertainment.  However, “ubuntu did not mean that people should not enrich themselves.  The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”

For most black South Africans Ubuntu is not a detached social theory – it is a central facet of their lives – and for many it is their primary means of subsistence. There is an automatic reflex to share one’s good fortune – and wages, however small – with others.  Many people in the poorer sectors of our society survive on the generosity of their employed relatives and friends – and even on the little that the older generation can spare from their meager pensions.

However, Ubuntu is not an approach to one’s fellow man that is limited to black South Africans. According to a recent survey of high net worth individuals in countries around the world South Africans were the second most generous group after Americans.  They also gave more freely of their time to charitable work than people from all but three other countries.   The survey ascribed their generosity to the spirit of Ubuntu on the one hand and to the enormous inequalities that continue to exist in our society on the other.

Unfortunately,  the daily manifestation of Ubuntu by tens of thousands of South Africans in thousands of NGOs goes largely unreported and therefore unnoticed.

The following are just a few indications of Ubuntu in our society:



 Thousands of South Africans belong to service organisations like Rotary International; Lions CLubs; Round Table and B’nai B’rith.  They raise funds for a wide variety of social and and dedicate their time freely to the service of their communities.  The following statement by an ordinary South African member of Rotary epitomizes the service culture that permeates the organization:

“Where else could I Help eliminate polio, while feeding the local hungry? Where else could I Help place the disabled in wheelchairs in Mexico while painting a local library? Where else could I Help provide clean water in poor villages while giving dictionaries to all of our city’s 3rd-graders? Where else could I Help fund micro-credit loans in Guatemala while putting diaper-changing tables in our Community Center?  ”




“The Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards recognize individuals who have shown leadership and excellence in their personal philanthropy. The core aim of the Awards is to inspire South Africans at all economic levels to take responsibility for South Africa’s social development by giving what we can, by contributing as we can and by recognising ourselves in the philanthropic role models that these Awards applaud. The Awards demonstrate how each one of us, regardless of income, can make a difference to the lives of others.”  The 2010 awards included



 Most NGOs rely predominantly – or solely – on money that they raise from the public.  They also depend heavily of volunteers who provide their services for no remuneration.  In many cases, they are the main providers of services and care to the public – often working in co-operation with government departments.



Nawongo represents 847 paid-up member organisations that are active across the spectrum of social and welfare service delivery, including children’s homes and homes for the elderly. Nawongo’s members provide approximately 65% of the country’s formal social services and employ around 30 000 people.