Original Research

Ubuntu considered in light of exclusion of people with disabilities

Sindile A. Ngubane-Mokiwa
African Journal of Disability | Vol 7 | a460 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v7i0.460 | © 2018 Sindile A. Ngubane-Mokiwa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 November 2017 | Published: 29 November 2018

About the author(s)

Sindile A. Ngubane-Mokiwa, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa


Background: This article emanates from a study funded by the KwaZulu-Natal chapter of South Africa’s National Research Foundation on the ‘Archaeology of Ubuntu’. It explores the notion of ubuntu and disability in a group of Zulu people from four communities within KwaZulu-Natal. The study is based on the notion that ubuntu is humaneness. Being human is linked to notions of care, respect and compassion.

Objectives: The article explores the treatment of people with disabilities from the elders’ perspectives in this community.

Method: This article is based on qualitative data resulting from structured interviews conducted in the KwaZulu-Natal Province between February and March 2015.

Results: The results reveal that society considered the birth of a disabled child as a curse from God and punishment from the ancestors. The results also indicate that people with disabilities were excluded from community activities; marrying a disabled person was unthinkable because they were stigmatised and dehumanised. The work of Hannah Arendt is used to interrogate people’s perceptions of others with disabilities in their communities.

Conclusion: The article posits that treatment of people with disabilities is not cast in stone but can be renegotiated and restructured through community engagement to represent genuine inclusion.


Disability; Ubuntu; inclusion; social constructions


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Crossref Citations

1. Family quality of life for families of children with disabilities in African contexts: a scoping review
Julia Jansen-van Vuuren, Reshma Parvin Nuri, Ansha Nega, Beata Batorowicz, Rosemary Lysaght, Heather Michelle Aldersey
Quality of Life Research  vol: 31  issue: 5  first page: 1289  year: 2022  
doi: 10.1007/s11136-021-02994-z