This article explores the current state of the social value of ubuntu. The notion of ubuntu seems
to offer possibilities for nation building and social cohesion in post-Apartheid South Africa.
However, this is contested by scholars who argue that the concept is vague and open to abuse.
Interviews reveal that, whilst core elements remain, the meaning of ubuntu has been eroded,
and is subject to distortion and even abuse. Ubuntu exists tightly interwoven with un-ubuntu.
The notion of liminality is introduced to understand the current state of both ubuntu and South
African society in transition. A liminal space offers possibilities for the creative re-imagining
and recovery of ubuntu as a social value that can drive social transformation in South Africa.
The lens of discursive leadership offers insight into the ways in which leaders can stimulate
and shape ubuntu discourse and facilitate the construction of new meaning in society.
INTRADISCIPLINARY AND/OR INTERDISCIPLINARY IMPLICATIONS : The article forms part of broader
research into perceptions of difference and threat, and prejudice on the part of South Africans
towards foreigners. Ubuntu is a social value that should challenge prejudice and xenophobia
and shape social relationships. Research in a rural and urban context in the Eastern Cape
suggests that ubuntu discourse has been eroded and is in need of reinvigoration.
This article was written as
part of the research for the
PhD degree that was done
under supervision of Prof.
Julian C. Müller, Department
of Practical Theology,
University of Pretoria,