As the national statistics of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to increase now having surpassed five hundred thousand, and South Africa having the 5th highest infections worldwide, – there should not be any room for complacency amongst our citizen. The months of August and September have been earmarked by the National Coronavirus Command Council and the Department of Health as the ‘peak months’, - where the country generally and Port Elizabeth particularly, are expected to experience high rates of infections and increased death rates.

Be that as it may, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a communicable disease that can be defeated through collaborative strategies. As we previously argued (see volume 5 and 6), it will be the spirit of sacrifice, self-discipline, information sharing, and collective consciousness that will see our society overcome this period. This is why as the University we have adopted the slogan of our namesake, Mandela, when he eloquently stated to a people facing struggle that: ‘It Is In Your Hands”.

Beyond the commendable efforts of our frontline and selfless staff and the vaccine trial candidates being examined by medical researchers on the continent and globally – the actual battle against this pandemic will be won by the core principles we share as a community of people. The practice of social distancing, mask wearing, sanitising, and staying at home cannot be achievable unless each of us has a sense of care about the next person. The sense of care should also extend towards giving due respect. Paying homage to those we have lost, and providing the necessary support to those who have been directly and indirectly affected by the virus at our University and in communities. In other words, the core principle of Ubuntu must be anchored in our praxis to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ubuntu in the context of indigenous Africans epitomises a value system that entails such features as solidarity, integrity, uluntu (community), peoplehood, humanness, self-respect, compassion and self-hood. These attributes are at the centre of what we (should) value the most in life. It entails a communal principle where one becomes a person or a human being when the other person, first, is better. Put differently, the fundamental goal of each one of us should be to strive to become complete and genuine human beings. That is why in the community traditions of Abantu (African people) where a person is to be given the highest praise, they would not hesitate to first mention that “ngumntu lo” ( in reference to a person who typifies Ubuntu as a value system). Needless to say, Ubuntu is an anti-thesis of the value system of crass materialism, greed, exploitation of human beings by the other, arrogant displays of opulence and wealth and loyalty to the bottom line in opposition to shared purpose and prosperity.

As we are all correctly pre-occupied by the twin tasks of securing our future through saving lives and saving the 2020 academic year, uluntu (the community) of Mandela University should continue to act in solidarity with our students and staff who have been infected by the virus, and provide them with the necessary support as part of the greater family of the University. We must support our colleagues and students in their full journey from recovery to post-recovery including defeating the stigma associated with the virus.

The conscientisation and public education programme needs to be deepened and heightened to shift mindsets and change behaviour.

Ubuntu as a way of life connects us with our humanity and is a powerful value that ought to guide our praxis particularly in these testing times. 

Without Ubuntu, asingobantu!  As Africans, we are less humans without Ubuntu!


Luthando Jack

Dean of Students

Posted on 06 August 2020 18:59:31

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This platform serves as a reflective, discursive and connecting space between myself and the entire student community of our beloved university. Through this platform, we converse with our students and broader stakeholders on all matters of student life, wellbeing and development at Mandela University.

Luthando Jack, Dean of Students