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Spirit of Ubuntu and the South African General Elections


On May 29, 2024, South Africa goes to the polls in what commentators call its most important and historic elections since the end of apartheid in 1990, thirty-four years ago.

South Africa’s population of 61 million people are praying that the spirit of ubuntu will reign. ‘Ubuntu,’ a Zulu philosophical value system, translates as "I am because we are." It speaks of togetherness and caring for one another.  The upcoming elections take place in an atmosphere dominated by political sectarianism, militancy, a failing infrastructure, and a growing frustration with the slow progress towards black economic empowerment.

South Africa is Africa’s third-largest economy, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $405.71 billion in 2023. The economy is sustained by its thriving mining, manufacturing, and technological industries. However, the country is confronted with five major social issues: corruption, land reform, energy crisis, unemployment, and crime.

With over twenty-seven million registered voters, these general elections will determine the Presidency and the members of its two houses of parliament, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Through a system of proportional representation, the South African electorate would choose four hundred members to the National Assembly for a five-year term. It is the members of the National Assembly that would choose the President, usually the head of the largest party. They will also elect ninety delegates to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) which acts as the nation’s upper house. South Africa has nine provinces, each with their own legislature.  Each province sends ten delegates to the NCOP to represent the interests of the provinces, with each province having its own legislature.

Peter Drucker, the world-famous management consultant, once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In South Africa, the stakes are high. Will the cultural philosophy of Ubuntu consume the divisive political environment and deliver a democratic, pragmatic, and optimistic governing formula?  The wisdom of the prophet Elijah applies when he was asked ‘can these bones live’ he stated ‘Only God knows’. For the people of South Africa, they continue to hope and pray that there will be a national coming together of bone and flesh in the spirit of Ubuntu.

The Spirit of Ubuntu, South Africa Elections, democracy, black economic empowerment


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