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Lekgotla and Magadi: Ubuntu oriented Practical Theology Research Methods



Practical theology has evolved from emphasising pastoral ministry to addressing contemporary issues facing local churches so that they can bring about transformation within the communities in which they operate. In addition, efforts and proposals to support practical theology as interdisciplinary have progressed and are considered to be transformative. This article explores the Lekgotla and Magadi processes by leveraging the African Indigenous Knowledge System (AIKS), with the aim of presenting two Ubuntu-based research methods for practical theology to engage and contribute to the transformational agenda. It combines social constructivism and the Ubuntu worldview to propose the Lekgotla method and the Magadi methods.
Pharos Journal of Theology ISSN 2414-3324 online Volume 103 - (2022)
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Lekgotla and Magadi: Ubuntu oriented Practical
Theology Research Methods
Abraham Modisa Mkhondo Mzondi
South African Theological Seminary (SATS)
Bryanston, Sandton, South Africa
Practical theology has evolved from emphasising pastoral ministry to addressing
contemporary issues facing local churches so that they can bring about transformation within
the communities in which they operate. In addition, efforts and proposals to support practical
theology as interdisciplinary have progressed and are considered to be transformative. This
article explores the Lekgotla and Magadi processes by leveraging the African Indigenous
Knowledge System (AIKS), with the aim of presenting two Ubuntu-based research methods
for practical theology to engage and contribute to the transformational agenda. It combines
social constructivism and the Ubuntu worldview to propose the Lekgotla method and the
Magadi methods.
Keywords: Lekgotla, Magadi, Ubuntu, research method, African Indigenous Knowledge
Practical theology focuses on the practical concerns or questions related to a faith
community and explores ways to resolve the situation by either changing action or explaining
the action (Heitink 1996:6). To this end, practical theology begins by first interpretating
human actions in view of Christian tradition (Action), analysing them based on factuality and
potentiality (Reflection), and suggesting some actions/strategies to enable transformation
(Action) (Heitink 1999:165).Two empirical practical theology approaches flow from this
intent, namely, Heitink’s (1999) three-steps process of: the empirical perspective (Action),
the hermeneutical perspective (Reflection) and the strategic perspective (Action); and
Osmer’s (2008) four-step process of: the descriptive-empirical stage (Action), the
interpretative (Reflection), the normative stage (Reflection) the strategic stage (Action). A
third approach follows Zerfass (1974) five-step process: theological tradition, praxis,
situation analysis, practical theological theory, and the redefined praxis. Zerfass’ first step
involves theoretical reflection, the second and third involves reflections on praxis whilst
the fourth and fifth involves re-imagined praxis. These practical theology approaches
reiterate some processes identifiable in two African Indigenous Knowledge Systems of
Lekgotla and Magadi among the Ubuntu worldview of the Batswana. This article uses
Lekgotla and Kgotla interchangeably.
Using a hybrid of social constructivism and the Ubuntu worldview, this article explores the
Action, Reflection and Action approach of practical theology to propose two alternative
research methods for practical theology based on the Ubuntu worldview. It begins by first
discussing social constructivism, defining Ubuntu, and discussing its related problem-solving
approach. Second, it presents the background of Lekgotla and Magadi and their associated
processes. Third it proposes the Lekgotla research method and the Magadi research method
and associated steps. Finally, it locates the two methods in practical theology.
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Social constructivism
Piaget (1953) conceptualised the theory of constructivism and argues that individuals must
not be given information but be encouraged construct their own knowledge while Vygotsky
(1962) conceptualised social constructivism and argued that social interaction and cultural
influences are an integral aspect of learning. Social constructivism then highlights that
culture and context helps to understand what is happening in the community and assist to
construct knowledge. Hence, Amineh and Asl (2015:13) states that: Social constructivism is
a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the knowledge
and understandings of the world that are developed jointly by individuals. This theory
assumes that understanding, significance, and meaning are developed in coordination with
other human beings.
Ubuntu and the problem-solving process
Ubuntu is an ancient worldview that exists among most sub-Sharan communities. It is
considered as holistic because it does not separate the physical from the meta-physical.
Gathogo (2008:46) describes Ubuntu “[a]s a spiritual foundation of African societies, Ubuntu
is a unifying vision or worldview enshrined in the Nguni maxim Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,
that is, ‘a person is a person through other persons’”. Broodryk (2002:17, 27), Sebidi
(1998:62) and Wilhelm (1998:40) explains that various communities use different terms for
Ubuntu: Botho, Vhuthu, Vumunhu, Utu, Abantu (in the isiNguni, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Vhenda,
Swahili, and Ugandan). Additionally, Ubuntu promotes care, sharing and mutual concern
(Ramose, 2006:15) and is often translated as “humanness”. Nicolaides and Shozi (2021)
and Nicolaides (2014; 2015) stress that it is the duty of society to support initiatives to
enhance the perceived and real value of all people, the disabled as well as the able. All
people serving in any capacity such as in a workplace, have worth and should be treated
with fair-mindedness, deference and dignity.
Although earlier proponents of Ubuntu indicated that it is not easy to translate into English
(Mokgoro 1998, Tutu 1999); some definitions have surfaced. Discourses on Ubuntu also
show that Ubuntu is critiqued for dehumanising women (Gabaitse, 2012: 66-69; Moloko-
Phiri, 2015:185,219; Mzondi, 2015:132-251). Nicolaides (2015) states that Ubuntu has a
schema to “…comprehend the nature and contrivance of male oppression and the way in
which the fairer-sex experiences this oppression. The experience of African women in an
Ubuntu oriented society, such as South Africa, is particularly important to understand, since
this is a suppressed discourse requiring greater analysis.
Just as other communities on earth, Africans have always been engaged in problem-solving
or addressing pressing matters or answering questions or concerns related to life
experiences. The Batswana follows the following general phases or steps in problem-
solving. First, is identifying the problem or concern. This is identified by asking: matsapa di
a tsa kae?” translated “what is the problem?” or “what is the matter/concern?”. The matter or
question may or may not involve consulting the ancestors or indigenous healer. Once a
problem or concern is identified, the second step then, kickstarts by following the correct
procedures. Third, appropriate people are engaged in problem-solving (Masiangoako, n.d.
b). Finally, the ancestors, always viewed as part of the community, are involved in the
The common approach of seeking for consensus among people through a flexible and
participatory process, form the underlying problem-solving principle (cf Anifowoshe, 2010;
Mabovula, 2011; Muruthi, 2006). This underlying principle function in the context of a
Lekgotla (Setswana for community gathering the king has convened) or an extended family
process of resolving a problem or matter. Usually, males dominate this domain
(Masiangoako, 1939b: 4). A gender inclusive Lekgotla may also be called where everyone
attending such gatherings is afforded an opportunity to express their views or say something
regarding the matter at hand (Ghebretekle & Rammala, 2018: 337).
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From a practical perspective, Issifu (2015:67) provides five similar stages observed in the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings and the Lekgotla in solving a conflict
or wrongdoing. These are: (a) establishing the facts, (b) the offender is asked to show
genuine remorse or show a sign of true repentance, (c) then is allowed to plead for
forgiveness and the victims in their turn are encouraged to show mercy and forgive the
offender, (d) the offender is then expected to pay an appropriate compensation or reparation
for the wrong committed and (e) lastly, is to encourage all the parties involved to became
part of a joint commitment.
Furthermore, the voice and views of the elders, including the ancestors, are always given
priority in discussing the matter at hand. This renders Lekgotla to be a consultative,
collective, inclusive process that promote consensus. Moumakwa (2010:11) describes a
Botswana context of Lekgotla as “a forum for policy formulations, decision making, including
political and economic developmental activities and judiciary on litigations”. It is also
necessary to indicate that Lekgotla is not rigid and uniform but take different forms from
community to community and the matter at hand determine its nature. With this view mind,
Lekgotla should be distinguished from makgotla (plural for lekgotla) established in South
African townships in the former Transvaal during the era of apartheid to address crime and
unwanted behaviour (Rakgoadi, 1995).
It is also observed that a family problem or concern between a wife and a husband is
referred to rakgadi le malome (aunt and uncle) from one family, who will engage their
counterpart from the other family. Masiangoako (1939a:1) provides the following process
among Batswana:
Monna a ka se ke a kgaogana le mosadi oa gagoe, fela ba sekile ba ea
koa pele ga batsoadi ba bona. Pele ge ba tla tlhalana ba ise kgang koa
pele ge batsoadi ba bona.
English translation
A husband may not separate from his wife before the matter is presented
before the parents. The matter must first be brought before the parents
before they divorce
Rakgadi le malome (aunt and uncle) from two families will engage until they find common
ground or reach consensus. The same parties also play a significant role in beginning and
concluding the marriage process and arrangements and the groom’s payment of Magadi
(plural for bogadi) (bridal price). The parties must be considered skilled enough to handle the
process in consultation with both parents. One trusted elderly individual or two trusted
elderly individuals outside the family, considered to be skilful in the process, is or are often
requested to accompany them and lead the process to achieve the desired outcome.
The marriage process and the Magadi (bridal price) negotiation is a complex system that
requires acquittance with African Indigenous Knowledge System linked to the clan or ethnic
group. It has its specific language, metaphors, and symbols that the delegates, with
assigned different roles during the negotiation process, should know, and understand. The
process becomes more complicated when negotiations occur across different clans or ethnic
The Lekgotla process and the Magadi process
Lekgotla is an ancient oral African Indigenous Knowledge System that continue to be
practiced in various communities in South(ern) Africa. The process of Lekgotla involves
calling the members of the community to address a community concern that might either be
something positive or something negative or to resolve a community problem. A problem
might be caused by an individual or few individuals or natural cause or some suspected
spiritual source.
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Some non-African scholars confirmed the practice of Lekgotla; first were Schapera (1957)
and Thopmson (1975) and later were Coplan and Quinlan (1997) Pienaar (2005).
Ghebretekle and Rammala (2018:336-337) mentions the existence and functioning of
Lekgotla among the modern Bakgatla ba Mosetlha of Makapanstad, Bokone-Bophirima
(North-West) Province, South Africa. Its ontological, epistemological, and practical aspects,
which varies from community to community, are grounded in the involvement of the
community in resolving socio-economic and political issues. Hence, the national government
of Botswana and the current ruling party in South Africa, the African National Congress-
ANC, continues to practice this approach.
The marriage and the Magadi process do not focus on the problem, but on how to negotiate
and conclude the payment of Magadi to enable the children from two families to marry and to
build family relationships by presenting the suitable number of cattle (lately expressed in
monetary term) to the girls parents. The process usually begins by the boys delegation
expressing deep appreciation of the girl sought to be married, her parent’s role in raising her,
identifiable in her conduct that reflect seriti (moral standing) (Goba, 1998:64; Tutu, 1999:4-
Regrettably, both the Lekgotla and Magadi systems are not female friendly as Magadi is
usually perceived as a through which means a man and his family use to own his wife and
control her reproductive rights (Gabaitse, 2012:64-68, Moloko-Phiri, 2015:185,219; Mzondi,
2015:234-235;). Some type of Lekgotla primarily marginalises women because it is
essentially a male gathering (cf Masiangoako, 1939b:1-3). Lastly, the process of calling any
form of Lekgotla involves males only and only the king and the appointed elder(s) led the
Understanding the Lekgotla and the Magadi processes
In both instances, the process begins by identifying the matter or objective or cause of
concern/problem. The Magadi process focus on achieving the set objective while the
Lekgotla process focus on problem-solving. Uniquely, both processes display a theistic view
as they assume the presence of a supreme being and conclude by presenting the outcome
to a supreme being.
The Lekgotla process
The following process is noticed during a Lekgotla gathering among the Batlhako tribe of
Pilansberg of the former Transvaal Province, the current Bokone-Bophirima (North-West)
Province of South Africa, convened to address a community problem or concern
(Masiangoako, 1939b). First, the problem or concern may emanate from an individual or
from the king/queen (Masingaoako, 1939b: 5-6). The Lekgotla will be called following the
view that "kgosi ke kgosi ka morafe" translated a chief is a chief because of the tribe.
Masiangoako demonstrate this view by providing examples of two chiefs of the Batlhako
tribe, chief Moetlo and chief Molopyane. The former did not consult with the headmen and
councillors in his decision making and ruling the community while the later always consulted
the headmen and councillors in his decision making and ruling the community
(Masiangoako, 1939b:1-3). Masiangoako continue to explain that, among the tribe of the
Batlhako, the king, in consultation with the headmen and councillors, usually summon a
meeting of the community (Masiangoako, 1939b:5). Communality and interdependence are
linked to this emphasis of the community. Utrecht University Sociologist of Rights Barbara
Oomen (2000: 80) succinctly states that in traditional politics and governance among the
Northern Sotho communities, the:
moral fibre of the whole society rests on bokgôši [North Sotho term for
chieftaincy]. Bokgôši encompasses religion, tradition, governance,
customs, and all else, which is why a kgôši [chief] should be a symbol of
unity chieftaincy ought to serve as “an institution of local justice, of
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public debate, and of an emerging civil society based on the traditions of
African politics and institution.
Second, the proceedings of a Kgotla may only begin when every expected adult in the area
is present (Masiangoako, 1939b:4). This principle ensures that people are given ample time
to arrive at the Kgotla because of travelling distances. Once it is ascertained that everyone
has arrived then the king or a kgosana (elder) will officially open the Kgotla (Masiangoako,
1939b:4) by shouting “tsialala(Setswana for attention) to call for everyone`s attention. Once
the appropriate attention is gained, he will then continue to explain the purpose of the
Third, he will further provide everyone attending an opportunity go latlhela la motla pitsong
kgotsa go latlhela tlhware legonyana that is, “to air one’s views or present one’s opinion”
(Masiangoako, 1939b:5-6; Ghebretekle & Rammala, 2018: 337). This is the longest process
of the Lekgotla as it allows for suggestions and/or possible ways to solve the problem or the
concern before the Lekgotla. The perceived nature of the problem or concern determine and
influences the presentation of suggestions or possible ways/solutions. Perceived norms and
traditions learned from past generations and passed orally to next generations will be raised
as attendees mention how previous generations resolved similar problems or addressed
similar concerns. Common Setswana phrases used during discussions are:
O opile kgomo lonaka you are spot on
Ntwa kgolo key a molomo fighting should not be physical
O ratha sekgwa you are off tangent
Mabala a kgaka/ke se e game yotlhe/ go baa mabala
a nkwe to be concise
Go garela to summarise
A common phrase on a consensus point during the discussion process will be, “ke la me leo
that is, I concur”. Once consensus is reached the Lekgotla will be concluded by the
responsible person summarising the points of consensus and then in a loud voice, shout,
pula” that is “rain”. The corresponding response from the attendees will be a ene that is
“let it rain,to invoke the blessing and sealing of Ramasedi le badimo (the supreme being
and ancestors) on the reached resolution.
Where appropriate, a suitable ritual or sacrifice linked to the type of the identified problem
will be offered to appease badimo (ancestors). A ngaka (an indigenous healer) or at other
times kgosi (king) will be asked to preside over the ritual and process. This constitutes the
fourth and final step/phase of a community problem-solving.
The Magadi process
The Magadi (singular for bogadi) process, provides an interesting approach by not focusing
on a problem that need to be solved, but begins by the son communicating to his parents his
wish and intention to get married. The parents will first obtain more information about the
girl’s family or clan to establish seriti (moral standing) of the family. Finally, the parents will
check if the son has enough cattle (money) to pay Magadi. Once the matter of the girls
family background is ascertained and the son’s ability to pay Magadi is confirmed, the matter
is handed to the uncle and the aunt who will begin the process to engage the girl`s family.
Masiangoako (1939a: 4, ¶ 7) describes an example of such process among the Batswana:
Monna o mongoe o bidioa Ntladi o kile a rata go nyala mosadi a bidioa
Motsei a mo inyadisa fela bagolo bagagoe ba sa rate. Ntladi a bolela fela
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gore ene oa mo rata. Batsoadi ba gagoe ba mmolela gore batsoadi ba
Motsei ke sika le le sa siamang, ba loa thata, ga ba utloane le batbo ba
English translation
A certain man named Ntladi married a lady named Motsei regardless of
his parents’ objection because he maintained that he loved her. His
parents indicated to him that she is raised by a family that is always
fighting with other community members.
On the other hand, the daughters parents, uncle, and aunt also want to ensure that the girl
is married to suitable son by establishing his parents background to determine their seriti.
On the day both delegates meet, the following process begins. First the girl`s uncle begin
the process by playing difficult and unresponsive. This requires the boys delegation
responding by presenting some gifts and tokens to appease him so that he may allow the
Magadi process to begin.
Once the uncle has determined that he has been appropriately appeased, he will then allow
the boys delegation to enter the premises and sit at an appropriate place, if they were
refused to enter before appeasing him. In the case where the visiting delegation was allowed
to enter the premises (and in some instance the house), the uncle will do the same until he
has determined that he is appropriately appeased.
After being appeased, the uncle will then leave the boy’s delegation to report to the girl’s
delegation and family. After some time, the girl’s delegation will then enter the room or
meeting place. The process enters the second step. This begins by boy’s delegation
introducing themselves by mentioning their clan’s name and/or totem before the negotiation
process begin. The intention is to determine family relations before discussing the intention
of the boy’s delegation. The third step involves the boys delegation appreciating the
daughter and her family moral standing; and then communicate that they have been
assigned to request them to allow their daughter to marry their son. This request is followed
by some calculated tough process the girls delegation initiates and the boys delegation
using their indigenous knowledge to find their way through that process.
Once they have found their way and reached consensus, some formalities that include the
exchange of gifts is observed to conclude the proceedings. The daughters family members,
normally not forming part of the proceedings, are notified about the positive outcome by the
women from the girls family delegation ululating to communicate that the two delates have
reached consensus on the number of cattle (representing an agreed amount of money) the
boy will finally present as Magadi. In some cases, this is accompanied by some brief praise
singing and dancing.
The next and final step is deciding on a ceremony to present the marriage before the
ancestors called, go tlhabela Magadi (this is a process to announce the marriage to the
ancestors of both families that show that the two families entered a blood covenant). On the
set day, the boys delegation will present two sheep and some gifts to the girls family. Each
delegate will slaughter the sheep and later exchange the right side of the carcass to
communicate that the families are joined spiritually; sorghum beer is normally prepared to
enable the official presentation by either family delegates communicating to their ancestors
that the two families are now one.
The proposed Lekgotla research method and the Magadi research method
Flowing from the above two processes, I now propose two research methods, namely, the
Lekgotla research method and the Magadi research method. The Lekgotla method is
discussed first and the Magadi method is discussed last.
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The Lekgotla research method and related steps
The Lekgotla process reflect a methodology that begins with an identified problem or
concern in the community and concludes by invoking the supreme being to bless the
outcome of meeting. The king (kgosi) and the community elders (dikgosana) are key
principals in resuming the process that includes:
A. Identifying the problem and calling the elders or community to attend the gathering to
address the problem or concern.
B. The process allows for maximum participation by allowing everyone to attend and
resume the meeting once everyone has arrived.
C. Once the matter is explained, the community members are allowed to contribute to
resolving the problem or concern. As noticed above, the cause may be an individual
or individuals or natural causes or what is deemed a spiritual force. No contribution is
disregarded even if some members may feel that it is beside the point or irrelevant.
D. The goal of the discussion is to reach consensus after allowing members to present
their views during the discussion.
E. Once consensus is reached and the outcome is summarised, the blessing of the
supreme being is invoked at the end of the lekgotla.
The above process is consolidated into the following steps called Describing the situation,
Participation, Consensus, and Presentation. The method assumes the acronym, DPCP.
Describing the situation This step involves describing and explaining the issue before
the elders or the community.
Participation This step allows maximum participation by ensuring everyone has attended
and is given a chance to contribute to resolving the matter.
Consensus This step ensures that those who attended reach consensus regarding
resolving the matter or concern.
Presentation This final step is taken after reaching consensus, the lekgotla concludes by
invoking the supreme being to bless the outcome.
From these steps, it is possible to point out that the Lekgotla method follows a four-step
process of: praxis, theory, theory-praxis and praxis-theory.
The method begins with what is practised, Describing the situation, moves to theory,
Participation, to theory-praxis, Consensus. At this point, it is essential to indicate that there
is an interrelated back-and-forth movement between Participation and Consensus with a
strong emphasis on reflecting on and ascertaining oral traditions, norms, and praxis passed
from generation to generation. Once conformity to oral tradition, norms, and praxis is
ascertained and there is mutual agreement on how to conclude the matter(s) before the
Kgotla, the participants will have reached the step of Consensus. The Lekgotla process
concludes with praxis-theory, Presentation, that anticipates that the supreme being will
bless the outcome of the Kgotla. Diagram 1 shows the Lekgotla method with the thick black
rectangle representing the holistic view of Ubuntu that form the foundation the Lekgotla
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Diagram 1. The Lekgotla method (DPCP)
Lekgotla resonates with Healey’s (2011) “transformative dialogical approach” and Bujo’s
(1998) “palaver”—an indigenous approach practiced in Congo to address community issues.
Healy (2011: 295) advocate for “the need to expand the operative conception of deliberation
in a more inclusive, egalitarian and, indeed, dialogical direction through the transformative
dialogue” while Bujo (1998:36) posit that palaver involves a “process of finding solutions,
does not manoeuver or trick or force people but discusses issues by sharing of experiences,
taking into consideration history of the community clan and interests of the living and the
living dead”. Both approaches emphasise the importance of the community and equal
participation in addressing community issues.
Furthermore, Lekgotla involves Hammersly’s (2010) aspect of cultural transmission
regarding the praxis of a community; and Erickson’s (2010) view of ethnography as a
thorough and comprehensive description of the situation on the ground. It is essential to
mention that the primary objective of ethnographic research is to establish how members of
the community resolve their own issues (Cruz & Higginbottom, 2013). Consequently,
Pienaar (2015:58) posit that Lekgotla flow from an “indigenous practise of problem
resolution’ and is an authentic research methodology leading to authentic research
outcomes in African contexts.”
The collection, analysis, and interpretation of information (raw data)
The elderly in the community plays an essential role in this process since they are perceived
to possess the necessary wisdom. The steps, describing the situation, participation and
consensus allows for data collection processes through participant observation as
participants engages in a thorough and contextual description of the situation as it unfolds.
The researcher or someone identified may assume the role of the king (kgosi) and
dikgosana (elders) to describe the situation, after which the Lekgotla may begin to engage
(Masiangoako, 1939b: 4-5). The three steps (describing the situation, participation, and
consensus) point to African Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIKS) the community apply in
resolving community issues or matters by allowing everyone who has attended the Lekgotla
to participate until consensus is reached (cf Anifowoshe, 2010, Mabovula, 2011 & Muruthi,
Praxis (Describing the situation)
Theory (Participation)
Theory-Praxis (Consensus)
Ubuntu worldview
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2006). Such indigenous systems form essential oral information (raw data) from the
community passed on to one generation to the next, orally. This is like obtaining information
(raw data) from the interviewee as s/he orally responds to open ended or close interview
questions during an interview session with necessary probing techniques. Furthermore, the
three steps allow the participants in the Lekgotla to engage in the process of analysing and
interpretating information (raw data) as they listen and contribute to the discussion with the
aim of reaching consensus.
Selecting the participants
As noted in the Lekgotla process above, kgosi (the king) in consultation with the dikgosana
(elders) determine who should attend the Lekgotla and a subsequent announcement is
communicated throughout the village (Masiangoako,1939b:4). Lekgotla is attended by a
either dikgosana (elders) (Masiangoako, 1939b: 4) or is open to the community (Ghebretekle
& Rammala 2018: 337). Masiangoako (1939b:4) emphasises that those who do not attend
are only reprimanded without facing serious action. This praxis points that participants
selection criteria is either purposeful or random.
The Magadi research method and related steps
Usually, real life revolves around resolving problems in different contexts. However, not
every matter in life is a problem. In fact, some matters in life are about achieving an objective
like a change in social status or building family relationships within the community. Efforts to
build family relations between two different families in the community are reflected in the
process of Magadi. This process is usually associated with the sons desire to get married
and concludes with the outcome of Magadi process communicated to the ancestors of both
families. As observed, the appointed delegate from both families engages in a dialogue or
negotiation process on the day the sons delegates meet the girls family delegates. The
objective of the meeting is to arrange a marriage between the son and the daughter.
Achieving the objective follows the following a prescribed process:
A. The uncle demonstrating that he needs to be appeased before the sons delegation
can enter the premises if they were not allowed to enter the premises or before
calling the other members of the girls delegates if they were given access to the
premises and assigned to sit at an appropriate place. Once appeased with relevant
gifts and tokens, the uncle calls the delegation to begin the negotiations.
B. The next step involves both families finding each other. The sons delegation begins
by introducing themselves using the clan’s name or totem. Similarly with the
daughters delegation. Then the sons delegation continues to appraise the family
and point to their daughter as a sign of good upbringing and seriti. This is followed by
a request to allow their son to marry their daughter.
C. This is then followed by the girls delegation playing difficult and making some
demands. The sons delegation will also use their skill and knowledge to navigate
themselves through the set of demands. This process usually takes several start-stop
rounds until there is a mutual agreement that consider the demands met. Usually, the
demands are the number of cattle (cash) the family demand as Magadi. Once this
stage is reached and confirmed, the women from the daughter`s delegation will
confirm the reached consensus by ululating.
D. The last process involves determining a day go tlhabela mogadi (this is a process to
announce the marriage to the ancestors of both families). Two sheep and sorghum
beer are needed to perform the task. The sheep are slaughtered, and the right
portion of each carcass are exchanged to symbolise that the two families are now
joined and to seal the marriage covenant.
This above process is consolidated into the following four steps called, Appreciating,
Accessing, Announcing, and Presenting. The acronym AAAP is used for this method.
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Appreciating This step allows to appreciate the role of parents in raising the daughter and
in turn her reflecting seriti,
Accessing In this step, the sons delegation uses indigenous knowledge to meet the
demands set to marry the daughter,
Announcing This step involves celebrating the mutual agreement, and
Presenting In this final step, the families slaughter two sheep to seal the covenant and
announce it to the ancestors.
The Magadi epistemology follow four steps: praxis, theory, praxis and praxis-theory. It
begins with what is practised, Appreciating, move to theory, Accessing, to praxis,
Announcing, and concludes with praxis-theory, Presenting. The Appreciating and
Accessing steps involve an interrelated back-and-forth movement as the two delegates
negotiate. Just like the Lekgotla method, the thick black rectangle represents the holistic
view of Ubuntu that form the foundation of the Magadi method. Diagram 2 shows the Magadi
Diagram 2. The Magadi method (AAAP)
The collection, analysis, and interpretation of information (raw data)
The essential information needed in the Magadi process is the background of the girl’s and
the boy’s families gleaned from each family’s clan’s name or totem and the moral standing of
each family (cf Masiangoako (1939a: 4, ¶) 7). Alongside the information gathering process,
the boy’s parents double check if he can pay Magadi and what are the daughter’s clan
requirements and process to marry the daughter. This process points to the Appreciating
step which naturally lead to the Accessing step that depends on the boy’s ability to pay
Magadi and understanding the daughter’s clan process to marry her. On the day of
negotiating Magadi, the boy’s family delegation applies African Indigenous Knowledge
Praxis (Appreciating)
Theory (Accessing)
Praxis (Announcing)
Praxis -Theory (Presenting)
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Systems to demonstrate that they appreciate the daughter’s family and her; and to skilfully
analyse and interpret the language and tactics of the daughter’s delegations as they
navigate themselves through some barriers based on their African Indigenous Knowledge
Systems. The objective of this step is to convince her family delegation to accept the
negotiated Magadi and then agree to release her to be marry the boy. Once they have
convinced the girl’s delegation to accept the negotiated Magadi and the required Magadi is
presented, then the girl’s women delegation will announce the positive outcome by ululating.
This joyous stage set the stage to exchange some gifts from both delegations and the
daughter’s family to be officially informed that the two delegations have reached a
Selecting the participants
Not everyone may be part of the Magadi negotiation process, as the process require some
skill and understanding of the Magadi process. Naturally, the boy’s uncle, who is supposed
to be the chief negotiator, and the aunt are the most important participants in the Magadi
process. Should the uncle not be a skilled and trusted negotiator, some male from the family
or community may be asked to be part of the delegation and be the chief negotiator. One or
two elderly people are added to the delegation. A similarly approach applies with the girl’s
Applying the Lekgotla and the Magadi research methods in practical theology
Over the centuries practical theology has been grounded on the praxis-theory-practice
approach as it attempt to listen to the word and the Word at the same time (Stott, 1993). Key
questions asked are: what is going on? why is it going on? what is the norm? and how to
resolve the question or condition at hand? Influential practical theologians (Browning, 1993),
Heitink (1989), Osmer (2008), and Zerfass [1974]) have worked around these questions by
suggesting some steps/phases to follow. Except Osmer, they have emphasised an inter-
disciplinary approach with the Bible as norm. Zerfass (1974) places theological refection
before analysing the context/situation. Browning (1993) has systematic theology as pivotal
while Heitink (1999) promotes a theological theory of action. Osmer (2008) departs from
these approaches by suggesting that the normative step/phase should lean heavily towards
human and social sciences. As noticed above, the Lekgotla and Magadi processes are
theistic because they are based on an Ubuntu worldview that does not separate the physical
from the meta-physical. Similarly, the Lekgotla and Magadi research methods take the
presence of the divine serious as it emphasises on checking the process and outcome
against the Bible.
This approach is like the principle of consulting God for direction and for seeking his
approval. A principle observed in the following passages of Scripture: (a) in Samuel’s view
when the nation of Israel wanted a king (I Samuel 8:6-7); (b) Daniel seeking God to interpret
the king’s dream (Dan 2:17-19); (c) the advice in Proverb 16:3,9 and 19:21 to present one’s
plan to God; (d) Christ’s approach of praying before choosing the twelve disciples (Luke
6:12-16); (e)the apostles casting lots and praying choose who was to replace Judas (Acts
1:15-26); (f) the leadership at Antioch fasting and praying before releasing Paul and
Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3); and (g) Paul’s advice to present prayer, supplication, request and
thanksgiving to God (Philippians 4:6-7).
Henceforth, the Lekgotla and the Magadi research method elevates invoking the divine, in
this case, the Triune God before undertaking the task of describing or appreciating the
situation and intentionally seek that the outcome should please and glorify God. The two
methods intent to echo what Jesus taught the disciple when they pray “Our Father who is in
heaven, hallowed be your name, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-
10, ASB). They promote the attitude of asking God for wisdom, understanding and insight
like Solomon who asked wisdom to rule the nation (1 Kings 3:1-9).
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The primary focus of practical theology is to address ministry related issues or problems to
bring transformation in the local church. This focus finds space in the Lekgotla and Magadi
research methods applied to address a problem or question by first Describing the
situation, in the case of the Lekgotla research method; or first to find out/look for positive
aspects, Appreciating, in the case of the Magadi research method. These research
methods are positive attempts to bring transformation in the local congregation.
Furthermore, the interrelated back-and-forth Lekgotla steps of Participation and
Consensus ensure maximum participation while the latter pointing to using available skills
and knowledge to resolve the matter or problem so that consensus is reached. These steps
resonate with placing value in using relevant natural and human sciences and other forms of
knowledge promoted in practical theology epistemologies, as well as promoting an inter-
disciplinary approach to resolve ministry issues. Finally, the Presentation step moves
further by invoking the presence the Triune God to assist in addressing and resolving
matters or problem in the community, in this case the local congregation. Consequently, a
practical theology compliant Lekgotla method (DPCP) encapsulate the following four steps
based on diagram 3 with the thick black rectangle representing the biblical worldview:
Diagram 3. The Lekgotla method (DPCP)
Describing the situation The current or normative faith community praxis is identified by
obtaining information using means like interviews, questionnaires to be able to describe and
explain the issue facing the church. Alternatively, participant observation is another means to
obtain data about the current situation.
As noticed in the above Lekgotla process, the king and council of elders determines who
should attend Lekgotla. Participants could be certain council members or all council
members or selected men in community or all member of the community. This enables one
to use different criteria to select participants in the study.
Praxis (Describing the situation)
Praxis (Describing the situation)
Theory (Participation)
Theory-Praxis (Consensus)
Biblical worldview
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Participation Allowing maximum participation by ensuring a reasonable representative of
participants in the study. Purposeful sampling or random sampling or snowballing can be
used to identify the participants. The researcher can also be a participant observer and take
notes or audio/video record the proceedings after seeking permission. Another form of
participation can be gathering the relevant data using diverse literature to understand the
situation at hand.
Consensus Ensuring that everyone contribute to the process of reaching a consensus. In
this case, relevant literature, social and human sciences, and African Indigenous Knowledge
System are considered in resolving the matter with the aim of suggesting a suitable solution.
This process also involves applying data analysis and interpretation methods available from
social and human sciences and African Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
Presentation Viewing the suitable solution through the lens of the Bible and critical
theological reflections. The step allows to use Mburu’s (2019) African hermeneutics to
engage the Scripture.
The associated relevant four questions of the Lekgotla method are:
A. What is happening?
B. What could have caused the situation?
C. What is the recommended approach to resolve the situation?
D. Is the recommended approach theologically and the biblically sound?
Regarding the Magadi method, the interrelated back-and-forth second and third steps,
Accessing and Announcing, also point to using available skills and knowledge to navigate
through the set of obstacles and to reach consensus after considering diverse opinions
covering the study. While the last step, Presenting, introduces measures of checks and
balances before presenting the process and its outcome to the Triune God, for divine favour
and blessing. Hence, the Magadi method (AAAP) revolves around the following three
practical theology steps in diagram 4 showing the biblical worldview represented in the thick
black rectangle.:
Diagram 4. The Magadi method (AAP)
Praxis (
Praxis (Appreciating)
Theory-Praxis (Accessing-Announcing)
Praxis -Theory (Presenting)
Biblical worldview
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Appreciating the situation Appreciating the positive elements in the study. This involves
using means like interviews or questionnaires to identify positive aspects of the studied
phenomenon or incident or religious praxis. Participant observation can also be used to
gather positive aspects in the phenomenon or incident or religious praxis. Alternatively,
positive aspects can be obtained from studying diverse or specific literature relevant to the
phenomenon or incident or religious praxis.
Only selected individuals from the boy’s family and the girl’s family participate in the Magadi
process. Similarly, purposeful sampling or random sampling or snowballing can be used in
the phenomenon or incident or religious praxis. Again, the researcher can request that the
interviews be audio or video recorded.
Accessing-Announcing Here the two steps are fused to enable the use of an
interdisciplinary approach by applying skills and knowledge acquired from social sciences,
human sciences, African Indigenous Knowledge Systems, the Bible and theology to critique
positive aspects of the studied phenomenon or incident or religious praxis. The use of
Mburu’s (2019) African hermeneutics also applies in this step.
Presenting Designing ways to present a theological and biblical solution to the faith
community with Mburu’s (2019) African hermeneutics in mind.
The associated relevant three questions of the Magadi method are:
A. What is positive in the current situation?
B. How are the positive aspects in the situation biblically accessed and celebrated?
C. How might the accessed positive aspects be presented to the faith community?
The article outlined that practical theology can focus on providing solutions to current faith
praxis. This is achieved by first focusing on human actions of the faith community or first
using a hermeneutical approach that first look at the literature. Similarly, the oral worldview
of Ubuntu addresses human actions through its Indigenous Knowledge Systems. The focus
of this article is to contribute to ongoing discourses in practical theology by proposing two
alternative research methods based on the Ubuntu worldview, namely, the Lekgotla method
and the Magadi method. The two methods revolve around several steps narrowed to four
each. The Lekgotla method uses the following steps: Describing the situation, Participation,
Consensus and Presenting (DPCP) while the Magadi method uses: Appreciating, Accessing,
Announcing and Presenting (AAAP).
Although different from traditional practical theology approaches, the two methods show the
intrinsic practical theology elements of Action-Reflection-Action (praxis-theory-praxis). These
manifest in alternative ways in four steps of Praxis, Theory, Theory- Praxis and Praxis-
Theory (the Lekgotla method) and three steps of Praxis, Theory-Praxis and Praxis-Theory
(the Magadi method). The Lekgotla and the Magadi methods hold a high view of the divine.
The two alternative methods also introduce the use of African Indigenous Knowledge
Systems in the interdisciplinary orientation of practical theology. Finally, the holistic Ubuntu
worldview that influences the Lekgotla and the Magadi methods position them to apply the
principle of holding a high view of the Bible.
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