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Home  >  Medical Research Archives  >  Issue 149  > Recreating Social Capital through nurturing Ubuntu in Community Health Clubs for disease prevention
Published in the Medical Research Archives
Dec 2023 Issue

Recreating Social Capital through nurturing Ubuntu in Community Health Clubs for disease prevention

Published on Dec 01, 2023




Whilst the concept of Social Capital is well known in Western literature as a measure of a functional community, the indigenous African ethical code known as Ubuntu is seldom referred to in community development programmes. We undertook exploratory research to better understand the extent to which values of Ubuntu are still recognised today and if such values could be co-opted into Community Health Club programmes to address the many common diseases that could be prevented by group action.

Method: A questionnaire was developed to identify key aspects of Ubuntu as lived experience in modern day Zimbabwe and how this ethic may manifest in the ordinary lives of Zimbabweans. The survey consisted of 40 questions with a mixture of quantifiable multiple-choice questions using a Lickert scale and qualitative open-ended questions. 100+ respondents were purposely selected representing a proportionate distribution of demographics. The quantitative data was cleaned and analysed in Excel with frequencies and percentages. The qualitative data was analysed using ‘Applied Thematic Analysis’. A Focus Group Discussion with Shona and Ndebele community development officers was held to ensure a deeper cultural interpretation of findings.

Results: The ethical code of Ubuntu was understood by 95% of the 102 final respondents, who reported they had been brought up with such values. However, socialisation of children in norms and values of Ubuntu had dropped to 75% in the current generation of parents. Social networks in both rural and urban areas were high with all but 11% belonging to a regular group, and 45% having 21 or more friends within walking distance.


For the rural areas 64% of respondents considered ‘Ubuntu’ to be high, 68% thought ‘honesty’ is high; ‘child safety’ in rural areas is considered moderate by 50% and high by 48% but only 9% would leave the door unlocked when going out. Only 4% could cite examples of non-Ubuntu behaviour in rural areas which included disrespect to elders, child disobedience, alcohol abuse, witchcraft and gender-based violence.

In urban areas, the inverse was found: only 16% thought there was any Ubuntu at all, and 81% thought there was a high level of non-Ubuntu behaviour, with a low level of ‘honesty’, no ‘personal security’ and low ‘child safety’. 81% cited examples of erosion of Ubuntu values, such as lack of trust and reciprocity, substance abuse, little social support and immorality in sexual behaviour.

People who are guided by values of Ubuntu invest highly in community which may generate high social networks and reciprocity, although levels of trust still remain low. Unlike Ubuntu, ‘Social Capital’ is not an ethical code but is the ‘common good’ that may be the outcome if Ubuntu is practiced sufficiently by a large enough group.

Conclusion: Ubuntu is a living and valuable attribute of traditional Zimbabwean culture and could be resuscitated particularly in areas, where society is in transition from rural to urban lifestyle, to provide a secular code of ethics to promote gender equity and equality, through consensus building and preventing disease within Community Health Clubs, thereby addressing many ills of modern African society.

Author info

Juliet Waterkeyn

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