Re: Using Silence in Meetings LO2895

Mr Crispin Hemson (
Wed, 20 Sep 1995 14:04:31 GMT +0200

Replying to LO2844 --

I'd like to qualify what Michael McMaster says about "indaba". This
is a Zulu word meaning, variously, a matter for discussion, a story,
a scandal or (more recently, in the plural), news. In the first
sense it is normally understood in the context of a meeting where, as
he says, there is a high value on talking an issue through until
there is consensus.

However, consensus was and is constrained in two ways. First, in a
more traditional context, eventually a chief might feel justified in
imposing his view if total consensus could not be achieved. And out
of deference some members would hold back their comments if they
disagreed with a standpoint taken by the chief. But generally the
idea was that the chief would hear out the discussion before pushing
for a particular position.

Secondly, voting was not excluded as a way of testing opinion, and it
is increasingly used.

In practice, "indaba" is still used even in an urban context with
that association. In meetings (my experience would be in a sports
club), there is now a strong emphasis on being democratic, being
understood both as hearing all opinions before making a decision
(more concern for this than amongst most non-Zulus), and
the rule of the majority. Of course, in spirit there is some
contradiction between these two understandings.

        Crispin Hemson
        Department of Adult and Community Education, 
        University of Natal, Private Bag X10, Dalbridge, 
        4014 South Africa
        Phone: (31) 260-2008    Fax: (31) 260-1168