O level Notes : FRS - Sources of unhu and their impact on Zimbabwean identity
In Indigenous religion institutions have risen as sources of morals and values as well as safeguarding the life of an individual and the community in which he or she lives.
Sources of unhu and their impact on Zimbabwean identity
In Indigenous religion institutions have risen as sources of morals and values as well as safeguarding the life of an individual and the community in which he or she lives. These are:
Marriage is considered as the most sacred institution in any society. It is a pillar on which every society gain support. Certain values need to be adhered to and practised so as to have a successful relationship. Such values include honesty, equality, commitment, respect, understanding, discipline and faithfulness. Sharing such moral values is a framework of a healthy marriage which is acceptable in society. Zimbabwean identity is marked by honest, complementarity, equality, respect and faithfulness which are attributes of unhu or ubuntu derived from marriage. For example, marriage teaches the men and women in marriage to be responsible by providing for the family. Most women work mainly during the rainy season in agricultural production while their male counterparts work in towns and abroad to fend for the family. So, marriage is a source of morals and values which shapes Zimbabwean identity.
The first social relationships are formed in a family. It is the family that shapes a person for it is the foundation of a society. Traditional values of hospitality and social cohesion are manifested in the collective efforts of the family. Children are taught values, ethics, trained on what is right and wrong and how to interact with people. The family shapes Zimbabwean identity through morals and values instilled into Zimbabwean citizens. The young people who have a true mark of Zimbabwean identity respect elders and every elder is treated as a parent. This comes from the family which socialises children that all elders are parents and deserve respect.
The community is the guardian of the individual. Indigenous religion stresses community life and communalism as a living principle of which the fundamental ideology is community identity. The community shapes the behaviour of a person. Good behaviour reflects that the person is coming from a good society. Zimbabwean identity is marked by communalism, a person belongs to the community. There is no individualism among indigenous people in Zimbabwe. No one is treated as the other because of communalism.
People are identified as one at family, community and national level. This is the reason why when one commits a crime is regarded as dangerous to the whole community. Furthermore, because of communalism Zimbabweans have an identity of helping one another in times of happiness and distress. Social gatherings like weddings, funerals and family rituals show the identity of Zimbabweans as one. People unite for one common purpose which makes tasks in the community to be accomplished easily.
Chieftainship is at the core of our being as an African society. This is so because chiefs play an important role in defining and keeping the people together. They are stewards of the morals and values in Indigenous religion. In other words, they give an identity to a society they are representing. Chiefs are vanguards of cultural values. They have a duty to protect and uphold the country’s cultural values. When moral values are not upheld, chiefs intervene to redress the situation either through punishment or paying a fine. Their duty is to curb moral decadence in the society.
Chiefs are religious practitioners in Indigenous religion and they are reservoirs of morals and values that shape Zimbabwean identity. For example, Zimbabweans are identified with good sexual conduct and chiefs as sources of morals and values who punish people who commit sexual offences like bestiality, incest and adultery which are all regarded as taboos in Zimbabwean society. It is because of this reason that chieftainship are a source of morals and values. Chiefs should be the yardstick of morality in the community and morality is what identifies Zimbabweans.
Unhu or Ubuntu in Indigenous religion
Unhu is a way of life which is linked to religion. It embodies all virtues that maintain harmony and the spirit of sharing among members of society. Indigenous religion beliefs show that an individual’s actions today are a reflection on the past and will have far reaching consequences for the future. One qualifies to be an ancestor if he has lived a respectable life on earth. Only those who die having upheld the concept of ubuntu will join the ancestral world. What an individual does affects the whole family. If one commits murder, the spirit of the murdered victim will return and haunt the clan of the murderer. So, to safe guard the future generation not to have miserable lives it is important for a person to always think of others before one act. Those who uphold the principle of ubuntu throughout their lives will in death achieve unity with those living. Ubuntu has to be displayed at all times in all circumstances and the idea of ethics.
In Zimbabwe, ubuntu maintains peace and harmony in a nation. People know what is good and evil, right and wrong. A violation of morals and values is an offense against all these individuals. Moral and values helps to keep society alive and in harmony with unhu or ubuntu. Unhu is the essence of the African moral system and it’s a concept which focuses on the character-based ethics. In Indigenous religion, one has to adhere to values and principles in indigenous society. Some of the aspects of Unhu emphasised in Indigenous religion are:
1. Universal human brotherhood (or unity)
The African man is first and foremost a member of his family, the extended family, the community and his
society in that order before being an individual. The African man has a social and communal nature which is based on unity. The African culture can complement the Western culture by integrating individualism with the communal nature of life.
At all times, there is always unprompted welcome and accommodation to unfamiliar persons and visitors. Africans effortlessly welcome strangers and offer them where to sleep as well as giving them food.
An African is supposed to exhibit compassion to the others. This is the reason why there is either extended family system or individualism.
Unhu entails that one should express sheer generosity to the needy in society. It is because of the attribute of unhu that helps in inculcating the belief that we are all human.
It is a negation of unhu to take sides when dealing with others. Fairness involve impartial and just treatment of others. Unhu entails that there should be impartiality and equal treatment of others. Every member of society is important and favouritism should be avoided as it is against the spirit of unhu.
Unhu means that one has to be just in executing judgements. Every person with unhu upholds the spirit of justice. Oppression of the others and social injustice is against the spirit of unhu or ubuntu.
Lying is against the spirit of unhu or ubuntu. Truth helps in solving problems of the family, society and nation at large. It is an important attribute of unhu necessary for peace and stability of the society.
Unhu or ubuntu is exhibited by regarding others with high esteem. Respect involves honouring someone by showing care, concern and consideration of their feelings and needs. It is because of this reason that elders should be respected at all times. For example, the young should show respect and avoid insulting elders and make them feel comfortable especially when they are travelling in a bus. The young should make way for the elders to sit first.
Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. A person is said to have unhu or ubuntu when he or she is honest and has good moral principles and values. It is an attribute of unhu which reduces promiscuity, corruption and greediness in society.