Botho: Sotho Tswana Ethics of Social Justice

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Mphetolang, Kagelelo
Issue Date
African ethics , Social justice , Christian ethics , Sotho-Tswana world view , Botswana
Social justice is an important topic in the church at the present moment. There seem to be conflicting ideas on how the church should approach this subject. Individual autonomy is often at loggerheads with Communalism. The church often finds herself subjected to conflicts on ethical matters, mostly due to these two different ideologies. Western churches, due to their Enlightenment experiences, argue for individual autonomy, often pitted against their Eastern counterparts, who are more inclined to communal living. These two ideologies are often at polarized ends, each seeking legitimacy as the core center of social justice and Christian ethics. The church in Botswana, like all other churches, finds herself in the midst of these two conflicting ideologies. Faced with a growing tension between the rich and the poor, the church has to come up with a voice that will create a balance between these conflicting views. The church in Botswana cannot ignore the fact that many people are now isolated more than ever by growing individualism. She, on the other hand, cannot again ignore the need to stress the importance of individual autonomy and the right to make free independent choices. In its quest to solve this dilemma, this thesis offers the ethic of Botho; a precept of Sotho ­ Tswana ancient ethics that have guided communities for generations. Sotho ­ Tswana communities are members of the Bantu languages, found in most parts of Africa. They, however, have always had a unique view of being human. The human being is seen as both an independent individual yet still a member of the community. This ethic offers a balance between communal living whilst yet affirming the individual as a member of a community. This thesis therefore, purports to describe the ethic of Botho, and how it has manifested itself in the lives of Batswana (people of Botswana). This thesis will also try to establish if this ethic is compatible with Christian teaching and theology on social justice.