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Ubuntu in Action

Source: Beijing Review | 2024-05-06 15:42   Click:

A view of Xiamen, Fujian Province in southeast China, in September 2021 (WEIYAO)


South Africa has the following saying: "I am because we are!" This ancient philosophy is called ubuntu, a compressed term from the country's Nguni languages of Zulu and Xhosa that broadly explains how our humanity is enriched through shared experiences, compassion and a sense of responsibility to others.


Similarly, the concepts of harmony, interconnectedness and mutual respect are deeply ingrained in the philosophy, values and culture of the Chinese people.


South Africa and China share a long history of friendship and cooperation. On September 18, 2023, the cities of Durban in South Africa and Xiamen in China's southeastern province of Fujian officially established sister-city relations.


As a true Durbanite who now also holds the title of Xiamener, I find myself in a special position, given the fact that the two cities I call home have joined hands for mutual cooperation. Having lived at the crossroads of these two worlds, I can say with confidence that our collaborative future is full of responsibility.


Historically, various cultural influences from around the world have shaped the distinctive features, flavors and ethos of these two cities.


Situated in the heart of the former Zulu Kingdom, one of sub-Saharan Africa's most eclectic blends of wildlife, history and culture, Durban is a dynamic coastal city and Africa's largest port.


With world-class facilities, a deep-water harbor and ongoing expansion projects, the port plays a pivotal role in the country's economy, acting as a significant transshipment hub for goods destined for Africa and beyond.


Similarly, Xiamen has served as a historical gateway for trade between China and the rest of the world. Located in Fujian, an industrial manufacturing hub, and endowed with state-of-the-art infrastructure, the city is ideally positioned for success.


In the current age of information, innovation and connectivity, the cities have embarked on a new journey focused on sustainability, skills development and investments in exciting new ventures.


Younger generations have a pivotal role to play in shaping the future of China-South Africa relations. South Africa is a youthful nation, with 60 percent of its population aged between 16 and 35.


Young people from both China and South Africa serve as cultural ambassadors by promoting an understanding and appreciation of each other's traditions. As future leaders, the youth hold the potential to deepen the bond between Durban and Xiamen, not only economically and diplomatically, but also through our shared values of equity, human rights and environmental protection.


At the forefront of innovation, the youth contribute to economic growth through entrepreneurship and technology endeavors, laying the groundwork for a dynamic and interconnected future.


Educational exchange is an avenue for broadening perspectives and sharing knowledge. As the words of anti-apartheid activist and first President of South Africa Nelson Mandela remind us, "Education is the only weapon you can use to change the world."


Today, our rapidly changing world faces numerous unprecedented challenges, for which we must find unique and sustainable solutions.


Engaging in social initiatives, promoting people-to-people ties and fostering global citizenship all contribute to building a foundation of mutual trust. Thus, the sister-cities initiative between Durban and Xiamen is a beacon of hope, embodying the spirit of ubuntu.


As a South African living in China, far from my homeland, I've never truly felt homesick in Xiamen. Durban is a city of friendly people and ocean breeze; I find the same sense of warmth and familiarity in the old streets of Xiamen. Sitting on the city's Huangcuo Beach, I can easily picture myself being back home on Durban's Golden Mile, a popular stretch of beachfront.


My hometown, Durban, is described as kwa-zulu, meaning Heaven on Earth. And how very fortunate I am to have found Heaven on Earth twice—first by birth and then by destiny.



By Kashveer Raghunath


This article was first published in ChinAfrica magazine. The author is a South African teacher in Xiamen