Ubuntu: An African Jurisprudence examines how and why South African courts and law-makers have been using the concept of ubuntu over the last thirty years, reflecting the views of judges and scholars, and above all proclaiming the importance of this new idea for South African legal thinking. Although ubuntu is the product of relations in and between the close-knit groups of a precolonial society, its basic aims - social harmony and caring for others - give it an inherently inclusive scope. This principle is therefore quite capable of embracing all those who constitute the heterogeneous populations of modern states.
Included in this work are discussions of two traditional institutions that provide model settings for the realisation of ubuntu: imbizo, national gatherings consulted by traditional rulers to decide matters of general concern, and indaba, a typically African process of making decisions based on the consensus of the group. Courts and law-makers have used imbizo to give effect to the constitutional requirement of participatory democracy, and indaba to suggest an alternative method of decision-making to systems of majority voting.
Ubuntu offers something extraordinarily valuable to South Africa and, in fact, to the wider world. Its emphasis on our responsibility for the welfare of our fellow beings acts as a timely antidote not only to the typically rationalist, disinterested system of justice in Western law, but also to the sense of anomie so prevalent in today’s society.