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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Motho ke motho ka batho is an ethical maxim to be found in many of the vernaculars of the Bantu-speaking peoples in Africa. It is based on the ontological view that motion is the principle of be-ing. It recognizes being human as a physical fact, but adds that in the ethical sense, a human being proper is one who acknowledges relationality with be-ing as a wholeness. This imposes the obligation to recognize, respect, protect, and promote life in all its manifestations, including the sphere of human relations. To act according to this ethical obligation is to rise above the level of selo, a mere physical entity, and to affirm one’s own humanness. This is the basis for economic, social, and political organization among the Bantu-speaking peoples. It is pithily stated as motho ke motho ka batho; umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye bantu. It is the core meaning of bantucracy. Historically, it predates the contemporary discourses on human rights. Against this background, the thesis to be defended here is that ethics precedes politics. An integral part of this thesis is that the principle of popular sovereignty ought not to be eliminated in politics. Furthermore, the desideratum for democracy—a means to an end—does not, by necessity, require elections and substantial possession of wealth or money. Was democracy in ancient Athens fortified and ameliorated by elections?

Keywords: kgosi, kgomo, motho, batho, botho, ubuntu relationality, selo, democracy, bantucracy

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