Swaziland is a small, beautiful country in southern Africa. It is surrounded
by the Republic of South Africa on three sides and by Mozambique on the east.
Swaziland was formerly a British protectorate.
It became independent
in 1968 as the Kingdom of Swaziland. Mbabane is the administrative capital and
largest town. Lobamba, a village, is the traditional, or royal, capital. Manzini
is the major commercial centre.
A Short Background
for the Swazis of southern Africa was guaranteed by the British in the late 19th
century; independence was granted 1968. Student and labor unrest during the 1990s
have pressured the monarchy (one of the oldest on the continent) to grudgingly
allow political reform and greater democracy.
The majority of the population is ethnic Swazi, mixed with a small number
of Zulus and non-Africans. Traditionally Swazis have been subsistence farmers
and herders, but most now work in the growing urban formal economy and in government.
Some Swazis work in the mines in South Africa. Christianity in Swaziland is sometimes
mixed with traditional beliefs and practices. Most Swazis ascribe a special spiritual
role to the monarch.
The country's official languages are Siswati (a language
related to Zulu) and English. Government and commercial business is conducted
mainly in English.
According to tradition,
the people of the present Swazi nation migrated south before the 16th century
to what is now Mozambique. Following a series of conflicts with people living
in the area of modern Maputo, the Swazis settled in northern Zululand in about
1750. Unable to match the growing Zulu strength, the Swazis moved gradually northward
in the 1800s and established themselves in the area of modern or present Swaziland.
They consolidated their hold under several able leaders. The most important
was Mswati II, from whom the Swazis derive their name. Under his leadership in
the 1840s, the Swazis expanded their territory to the Northwest and stabilized
the southern frontier with the Zulus.
Contact with the British came early in
Mswati's reign, when he asked British authorities in South Africa for assistance
against Zulu raids into Swaziland. It also was during Mswati's reign that the
first whites settled in the country. Following Mswati's death, the Swazis reached
agreements with British and South African authorities over a range of issues,
including independence, claims on resources by Europeans, administrative authority,
and security. South Africans administered the Swazi interests from 1894 to 1902.
In 1902 the British assumed control.
In 1921 Swaziland established its first
legislative body--an advisory council of elected European representatives mandated
to advise the British high commissioner on non-Swazi affairs. In 1944, the high
commissioner conceded that the council had no official status and recognized the
paramount chief, or king, as the native authority for the territory to issue legally
enforceable orders to the Swazis.
In 1921, after more than 20 years of rule
by Queen Regent Lobatsibeni, Sobhuza II became Ngwenyama (lion) or head of the
Swazi nation. In the early years of colonial rule, the British expected that Swaziland
would eventually be incorporated into South Africa. After World War II, however,
South Africa's intensification of racial discrimination induced the United Kingdom
to prepare Swaziland for independence. Political activity intensified in the early
1960s. Several political parties were formed and jostled for independence and
economic development. The largely urban parties had few ties to the rural areas,
where the majority of Swazis lived. The traditional Swazi leaders, including King
Sobhuza II and his Inner Council, formed the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM),
a political group that capitalized on its close identification with the Swazi
way of life. Responding to pressure for political change, the colonial government
scheduled an election in mid-1964 for the first legislative council in which the
Swazis would participate. In the election, the INM and four other parties, most
having more radical platforms, competed in the election. The INM won all 24 elective
Having solidified its political base, INM incorporated many demands
of the more radical parties, especially that of immediate independence. In 1966,
the U.K. Government agreed to discuss a new constitution. A constitutional committee
agreed on a constitutional monarchy for Swaziland, with self-government to follow
parliamentary elections in 1967. Swaziland became independent on September 6,
1968. Swaziland's post-independence elections were held in May 1972. The INM received
close to 75% of the vote. The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) received
slightly more than 20% of the vote which gained the party three seats in parliament.
In response to the NNLC 's showing, King Sobhuza repealed the 1968 constitution
on April 12, 1973 and dissolved parliament. He assumed all powers of government
and prohibited all political activities and trade unions from operating. He justified
his actions as having removed alien and divisive political practices incompatible
with the Swazi way of life. In January 1979, a new parliament was convened, chosen
partly through indirect elections and partly through direct appointment by the
King Sobhuza II died in August 1982, and Queen Regent Dzeliwe assumed
the duties of the head of state. In 1984, an internal dispute led to the replacement
of the prime minister and eventual replacement of Dzeliwe by a new Queen Regent
Ntombi. Ntombi's only child, Prince Makhosetive, was named heir to the Swazi throne.
Real power at this time was concentrated in the Liqoqo, a supreme traditional
advisory body that claimed to give binding advice to the Queen Regent. In October
1985, Queen Regent Ntombi demonstrated her power by dismissing the leading figures
of the Liqoqo. Prince Makhosetive returned from school in England to ascend to
the throne and help end the continuing internal disputes. He was enthroned as
Mswati III on April 25, 1986. Shortly afterwards he abolished the Liqoqo. In November
1987, a new parliament was elected and a new cabinet appointed.
In 1988 and
1989, an underground political party, the Peoples' United Democratic Movement
(PUDEMO) criticized the king and his government, calling for democratic reforms.
In response to this political threat and to growing popular calls for greater
accountability within government, the king and the prime minister initiated an
ongoing national debate on the constitutional and political future of Swaziland.
This debate produced a handful of political reforms, approved by the king, including
direct and indirect voting, in the 1993 national elections.
Guide to Swaziland
of Swaziland - Read more about the geography and topography of Swaziland
of Swaziland - Presents a detailed historical background and culture of
Life & People of Swaziland
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Cuisine of Swaziland - Find out delicious local cuisines of Swaziland
in Swaziland - Check out a list of the local holidays in Swaziland
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of Swaziland - Provides an Embassy database for Swaziland
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in Swaziland - Discover the best places to visit, sight seeing, and tourist
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Maps of Swaziland
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Database of Swaziland - Browse a large collection of city, country, historical,
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of Swaziland - Uncover the flag images and description of the flag of
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of Swaziland - Highlights the location, map references, area, land boundaries,
climate, natural resources, land use, natural hazards, environment, and geography
People of Swaziland - Learn
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ethnic groups, religions, languages, and literacy in Swaziland
and Politics in Swaziland - Profiles the country name, government type,
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of Swaziland - Study the GDP, growth rate, per capita, inflation, labor,
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Info - Swaziland Political Geography - Encyclopedia resource provides
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