Ubuntu and Justice as Fairness


  • Moeketsi Letseka


This paper juxtaposes John Rawls’s ‘justice as fairness’ as articulated in A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, with an African worldview knows as Ubuntu with a view to ascertaining whether Ubuntu can deliver ‘justice as fairness’ in South Africa, which is liberal and egalitarian, while also deeply influenced by indigenous African values and epistemologies, or ways of knowing. ‘Justice as fairness’ points to ‘the moral powers’ that people have, related to their ‘capacity for a sense of justice’ and ‘for a conception of the good’. Ubuntu is not only a moral theory concerned with infusing humane dispositions. It also embodies values, morals, and notions of traditional African communal justice. Indeed in Southern Africa Justice is perceived as Ubuntu fairness. That is, doing what is right and moral in the indigenous African society. Traditional African community represents Ubuntu. There is no Ubuntu without community. And while ‘justice as fairness’ is anchored on ‘the social contract’, African traditional democracy operates in a form of discussion, or an indaba, (open discussion by a group of people with a common interest), a lekgotla (a scheduled discussion at a secluded venue), or a pitso (a public assembly for discussing issues of national concern). The indaba, lekgotla and the pitso constitute elements of ‘social contract theory’ as articulated by Rousseau. They are vital fora for political communication and education. The paper concludes that given Ubuntu’s capacity to constitute order, it can therefore be reasonably argued that it has the potential to deliver ‘justice as fairness’.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n9p544


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How to Cite

Ubuntu and Justice as Fairness. (2014). Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 5(9), 544. https://www.richtmann.org/journal/index.php/mjss/article/view/2670