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What makes Nkosikho Mbele's kindness a different kind of ubuntu?

Monet van Deventer's faith in humanity was restored when a petrol attendant offered to pay for her fuel so she did not get stuck on a notorious stretch of road
Monet van Deventer's faith in humanity was restored when a petrol attendant offered to pay for her fuel so she did not get stuck on a notorious stretch of road
Image: Facebook/Monet van Deventer

It was not a big deal to me, and some Africans, that a man had bought a stranger fuel and expected nothing in return because, as blacks, we are raised to show ubuntu to other human beings.

Petrol attendant Nkosikho Mbele made headlindes after he paid R100 to top up the tank of a motorist who had stopped for gas but realised she had forgotten her bank card on her way to Cape Town.

Mbele was reported to have told Monet van Deventer that he was worried she would be stranded on the N2 highway after running out of petrol and be attacked by criminals. "I believe there is no black and white, I wish to bring peace and to bring people together," Mbele was quoted saying by News24.

He said he did not want Van Deventer to be at risk of being attacked as he had heard so many horror stories about the the freeway.

"I know the N2 mos, I live there and know how dangerous it is."

Petrol attendant Nkosikho Mbele helped a woman at Shell Ultra City outside Cape Town by using his own money to buy fuel for the motorist who had forgotten her bank card on May 30 2019.

Van Deventer went back to pay the money, then shared her encounter of kindness from a stranger on social media, and started the crowd-funding campaign to thank him.

The good deed went viral online and touched thousands around the world who in return opened their wallets, resulting in over R400,000 being raised for Mbele.

However, it also sparked a racial debate locally. With some saying the report had only made it to the media and generated so much money because it was a black man helping a white woman.

They argued that it would not have become as big if it was two Africans assisting one another, which happens everyday by the way.

Others took offence with messages posted on social media to praise Mbele - "Oh, there is still good people in the world", "Oh there is hope for South Africa" and "He makes us proud to be South Africans". People who were offended by these messages did not understand what was the big deal with what Mbele had done? Just like I did not get it.

They interpreted these messages as being racists, shot of saying "oh my goodness, there are still good black people in South Africa".

I do not know Mbele but from what I read he came across as a kind man who cares about fellow human beings, and deserves all the praise.

I have never met Van Deventer either, however, she seems like a genuine human being who posted the story because she was genuinely touched by Mbele's act and wanted to show gratitude.


It is not frowned upon in any black community to knock at your neighbour's house in the morning and ask them for money for transport to help you get to work.

The neighbour will gladly assist you, if they have, and not ask when they would get it back or how it would be paid, as it is expected of anyone.

It is normal to go next door, in the evening, and ask for salt as you 'have just discovered while preparing dinner that the shaker was empty'. And it will be given to you with no questions asked.

You know why this is normal to us? It is how we are raised - to be our brother's keepers.

So, when some of us are not moved and our reaction to Mbele's good deed is: "Oh, that was kind", and move on, understand.

Acts of kindness are part of us. Being kind and giving is who we are - that is where the concept of ubuntu comes from.

We give and expect nothing in return.

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