Location of Swaziland
Map of Swaziland
Flag of Swaziland
The Kingdom of Swaziland (Umbuso weSwatini), sometimes called Ngwane or Swatini, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique. The nation, as well as its people, are named after the 19th century king Mswati II.
Swaziland is a small country, no more than 200 km north to south and 130 km east to west. The western half is mountainous, descending to a lowveld region to the east. The eastern border with Mozambique and South Africa is dominated by the escarpment of the Lebombo Mountains. The climate is temperate in the west, but may reach 40 degrees in summer in the lowveld. Rainfall occurs mainly in the summer and may reach 2 m in the west.
The area that Swaziland now covers has been continuously inhabited since prehistory. Today, the population is primarily ethnic Swazis whose language is siSwati, though English is spoken as a second language. The Swazi people descend from the southern Bantu who migrated from Central Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Anglo Boer war saw the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland make Swaziland a protectorate under its direct control. Swaziland gained independence in 1968. Swaziland is a member of the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, and the Commonwealth of Nations. The head of state is the king, who appoints the prime minister and a small number of representatives for both chambers of parliament. Elections are held every five years to determine the majority of the representatives. A new constitution was adopted in 2005.
Swaziland's economy is dominated by the service industry, manufacturing and agriculture. Some 75% of the population are employed in subsistence farming, and 60% of the population live on less than the equivalent of US$1.25 per day. Swaziland's main trading partner is South Africa, and its currency is pegged to the South African rand. Swaziland's economic growth and societal integrity is highly endangered by its disastrous HIV epidemic, to an extent where the United Nations Development Program has written that if it continues unabated, the "longer term existence of Swaziland as a country will be seriously threatened." The infection rate in the country is unprecedented and the highest in the world at 26.1% of adults and over 50% of adults in their 20s.
Artifacts indicating human activity dating back to the early Stone Age 200,000 years ago have been found in the Kingdom of Swaziland. Prehistoric rock art paintings date from ca. 25,000 B.C. and continue up to the 19th century.
The earliest inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by the Bantu tribes during Bantu migrations who hailed from the Great Lakes regions of Eastern Africa. Evidence of agriculture and iron use dates from about the 4th century and people speaking languages ancestral to current Sotho and Nguni languages began settling no later than the 11th century. The Bantu people known as the Swazis established iron-working and settled farming colonies in the 15th century after crossing the Limpopo river. They experienced great economic pressure from the rival Ndwandwe clans from the south.
The country derives its name from a later King, Mswati I. However, Ngwane is an alternative name for Swaziland and Dlamini remains the surname of the royal family, while the name Nkosi means King.
The autonomy of the Swaziland Nation was dictated by British rule of southern Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1881 the British government signed a convention recognizing Swazi independence. However, controversial land and mineral rights concessions were made under the authority of the Foreign Jurisdiction Act of 1890 in terms of which the administration of Swaziland was also placed under that of the then South African Republic (Transvaal).
Swaziland was indirectly involved in the Second Boer War (1899–1902). The beginning of the conflict found it administrated by the South African Republic, with the colonial headquarters set at Bremersdorp. In September, 1899, with war considered imminent, the colonists started evacuating the area. Ngwane V of Swaziland (Bhunu) was informed that the area would be left in his care during the absence of the white residents. The Swaziland Police under Sgt Opperman started practicing for war while issuing rifles and ammunition to remaining burghers. On 4 October 1899, Special Commissioner Krogh issued an official notice of evacuation for "all white inhabitants" with the excecption of burghers eligible for active service. Most of the British subjects were escorted towards the border with Mozambique, women and other South African civilians were left heading for various destinations. People with dual nationality were still subject to the draft, though unwilling to fight against their own people. Unsurprisingly, several of them escaped towards Mozambique or the Colony of Natal.
It was not long before skirmishes involved the Swaziland forces. On 28 October 1899, the newly formed Swaziland Commando unit moved against a British police post at Kwaliweni. The South African unit counted about 200 burghers, while the outpost only had 20 men. Bhunu managed to warn the police post of the approaching attack. The police retreated towards Ingwavuma, seat of a magistrate. The Commando burned the abandoned post and a nearby shop to the ground. Then Joachim Ferrera led them towards Ingwavuma. The village was not better guarded and had to also be evacuated. The Swaziland Commando burned it to the ground, while the magistrate and his people escaped to Nongoma.
Meanwhile, the Swazi people had been warned by Piet Joubert to remain calm and not involve themselves in the conflict. Bhunu instead found himself unrestricted from colonial authorities for the first time. He soon felt free to settle old scores with political enemies. News of the violent deaths of diplomat Mnkonkoni Kunene and several others in time reached the Boer forces involved in the Siege of Ladysmith. Several of the dead had close ties to the colonial authorities. Joubert had to assure worried commanders that Swaziland was not turning against. Indeed, spies reported that Bhunu feared he had been bewitched. He was striking against whoever he suspected of the deed. On 10 December 1899, Bhunu died due to a serious illness. He had blamed it on sorcery, though contemporaries suspect it was alcohol-induced. His mother Labotsibeni Mdluli became regent. She set about eliminating the surviving advisors and favourites of Bhunu.
Swazi regiments were roaming the country during the internal conflicts. The South African authorities were worried that the violence could expand towards the south-western border of Swaziland, where Boer farms were cultivated by women and children. They had the farms evacuated and the population transferred to Piet Retief. The farmers from Piet Retief, Wakkerstroom and their vicinities had made a practice of trekking their ship into Swaziland for winter grazing. In January, 1900, Francis William Reitz, the State Secretary of the South African Republic, started issuing orders discouraging any sheep-herders from entering Swaziland. On 18 April 1900, any such entry was forbidden. The Swaziland Commando were by that point far from their initial homebase, fighting along the Tugela River.
The British had their own concerns about Swaziland. They suspected that supplies from Mozambique could be smuggled to the Boers through Swaziland. Queen-regent Labotsibeni was however attempting to maintain neutrality in the wider conflict, pre-occupied with securing the throne. Her grandson Sobhuza II of Swaziland was underage and there were other viable candidates for the throne among the House of Dlamini. In particular, Prince Masumphe. Masumphe was a cousin of Bhunu and a rival candidate for the throne since 1889. His line of the family maintained close relations with the Boers, the Prince himself educated at Pretoria. By May, 1900, the Queen was worried that the Boers would intervene against her in case of a succession dispute. She opened communications with the restored magistrate of Ingwavuma, arranging to flee to his area if needed.
Her messages were passed to the government of Natal and from there to Cape Town, the capital of the Cape Colony. A reply by Johannes Smuts assured her that the British had not forgotten about the Swazi and British representatives would reliably return to Swaziland at an early date. The message might have reflected Smuts' own ambitions but his authority on such matters was rather questionable. But Frederick Roberts, Baron Roberts, a high-ranking military officer, was also convinced to start diplomatic contacts with the Queen. His representatives were to persuade the queen-regent of three things. First, the need to prevent the Boers from occupying the mountains of the area. Second, the necessity of formally appealing for British protection. Third, to make clear that the indiscriminate murders in Swaziland would have to end.
The British contacts with the Swazi played a role in advance of their siege of Komatipoort, a nearby South African stronghold. In September 1900, once the town fell, the British were able to capture Barberton and its area. A number of Boers fled into Swaziland. Only for the Swazi to disarm them and confiscate their cattle. The end of South African presence in the area left open the question of what to do with Swaziland. Smuts had been campaigning since May to convince the British authorities to place Swaziland under their administration. By September, Smuts had gained some support from civil authorities. But not by military ones, since Roberts did not want to devote any of his forces to an invasion or occupation of the area. Nevertheless, Smuts attempted some diplomatic contacts with the Swazi. Not particularly successful ones. The indvuna Smuts met for discussions refused to give any information on the internal affairs of Swaziland or Boer activities.
The fall of Komatipoort resulted in increasing the importace of Swaziland for the Boers. To maintain their communications with diplomatic and trade contacts in Lourenço Marques, Mozambique, the Boers had to sent messengers through Swaziland. Which was difficult since British forces were allowed to pass through certain Swazi areas. By November 1900, the Queen was able to assure both Roberts and Smuts that she "was doing her best to drive Boers out of her country". A few armed burghers and their African allies, hostile to her government, were still active at times.
On 29 November 1900, Roberts was relieved of his command. His replacement was Herbert Kitchener, Baron Kitchener of Khartoum. By late December, Smuts contacted the military secretary office of Kitchener concerning the Swaziland situation. Smuts had secured the position of Resident Commissioner of Swaziland though the British had no actual authority over the area. He attempted to convince Kitchener it was time to establish a permanent military presence in Swaziland. With himself taking charge of the area. Kitchener had a different view. Starting his own correspondence with Labotsibeni, Kitchener insisted on three points. First, the Swazi were still required to not take part in the war. Second, no British forces would be send in Swaziland unless the area faced a Boer invasion. Third, the Swazis were now directly under the authority of the British Crown, owing their loyalty to Victoria of the United Kingdom.
In December 1900-January 1901, there were information that retreating Boers were attempting to flee through Swaziland. Eight British columns were sent to either force the Boer commandos to surrender or flee to Swaziland. A certain column under Horace Smith-Dorrien proceeded all the way to the Swaziland border, managing to capture several Boer wagons and large numbers of cattle and sheep on 9 February 1901. Most of the captured Boers were sent to the concentration camp of Volksrust. On February 11, another column under Edmund Allenby was positioned at the southern border of Swaziland. On 14 February, Smith-Dorrien's forces reached Amsterdam. There he was contacted by envoys of the Queen-regent, requesting aid in driving the Boers off her land. In response, the Imperial Light Horse and the Suffolk Regiment were send into Swaziland.
Joined by armed Swazis, the two regiments were able to capture about 30 Boers in an initial skirmish. However heavy rains soon slowed their advance through the country. On 28 February 1901, other 200 men of the British mounted infantry entered Swaziland. Under Lt-Col Henry, this force managed to locate and capture the transport convoy of the Piet Retief Commando. About 65 Boers were captured in the operation. The remnants of the Commando retreated towards the southern border of Swaziland, only to get captured by the British forces stationed there. By early March, Smith-Dorrien noted that the Swazis were pillaging Boer residences. By this time, Allenby had reached Mahamba and set camp there, Henry was pursuing another Boer wagon convoys and Queen-regent Labotsibeni was ordering her Impis to clear their land from the Boers. Henry eventually managed to return to Derby with several prisoners, while Allenby and his forces reached the vicinity of Hlatikulu. The burthers had to limit themselves to "the hills of southwestern Swaziland".
Surviving accounts from the Devonshire Regiment indicate that the Swazis were acting as "a ninth column, commanded by the Queen of the Swazis". On 8 March 1901, remnants of the Piet Retief Commando, accompanied by women and children, were attacked by forces supposedly under Chief Ntshingila Simelano. The latter consisted of about 40 men, including two riflemen. 13 Burghers and one African guide were killed, several wounded, the others were scattered. Some of the survivors later surrendered to the 18th Hussars. Ntshingila later denied any involvement in the massacre. In any case, the incident terrified several other Boers. Between 8 and 11 March, about 70 burghers and various women children chose to surrender to Allenby rather than face the Swazis. The British nevertheless warned Labotsibeni to cease further massacres.
On 11 April 1901, Louis Botha corresponded with Kitchener, complaining that British Officers were inducing the Swazis to fight against the Boers. Claiming the result was the indiscriminate murders of Burghers, women and children by Swazi commandos. Allenby attributed the killings partly to Swazi anxiety to counter Boer incursions into their territory and partly to their fear of Boer reprisals. That is what the Boers would do when the British eventually left. Allenby himself refused to allow large numbers of armed Swazis to join his column, though he still used a few of them as guides. Smuts finally entered Swaziland during this month, though unable to establish his authority over any British forces.
The presence of regular British troops allowed the Queen-regent to present to them her concerns over an irregular unit, "Steinaecker's Horse". Created early in the war as a unit of adventurers and mercenaries under British command, they were well-known for looting Boer property. But with the Boer inreasingly impoverished, they had turned their attention to the cattle of the Swazi. Labotsibeni complained to both sides that this unit consisted of common robbers occupying Bremersdorp. Botha responded by sending a Commansdo Unit against the Horse. They were to avoid antagonizing the Swazi in any way. The Swazi National Council agreed to let them pass. Between 21 and 23 July 1901, the Ermelo Commando succeeded in forcing most of the "Steinaecker's Horse" forces to retreat, capturing about 35 men, killing or wounding a few and burning Bremersdorp to the ground.
Both the British and the Boers continued to have access to Swaziland with occasional skirmishes occurring. On 8 November 1901, for example, the 13th Hussars captured 14 burghers near Mahamba. The skirmishes ended in February 1902 with the defeat of the final Boer unit in Swaziland.
Nevertheless, the Swaziland independence Constitution was promulgated by Britain in November 1963 in terms of which a legislative Council and an Executive Council were established. This development was opposed by the Swazi National Council (liqoqo).
Despite such opposition, elections took place and the first Legislative Council of Swaziland was constituted on 9 September 1964. Changes to the original constitution proposed by the Legislative Council were accepted by Britain and a new Constitution providing for a House of Assembly and Senate was drawn up. Elections under this Constitution were held in 1967. Since 1973, Swaziland has seen a rather quiet struggle between pro-multiparty activists and supporters of the current Tinkhundla (constituencies) System of governance or Grass Roots Democracy System.
The head of state is the king or Ngwenyama (lit. Lion), currently King Mswati III, who ascended to the throne in 1986 after the death of his father King Sobhuza II in 1982 and a period of regency. By tradition, the king reigns along with his mother or a ritual substitute, the Ndlovukati (lit. She-Elephant). The former was viewed as the administrative head of state and the latter as a spiritual and national head of state, with real power counter-balancing that of the king, but during the long reign of Sobhuza II the role of the Ndlovukati became more symbolic. As the monarch, the king not only appoints the prime minister—the head of government from the legislature and also with the advice of the advisory council but also appoints a small number of legislatures in both chambers of Libandla (parliament). The king is allowed by the constitution to appoint some members to parliament for special interests. These special interests are citizens who might have been left out by the electorate during the course of elections or didn't enter as candidates. This is done in order to balance views in parliament. Special interests could be people of gender, race, disability, business community, civic society, scholars, chiefs and so on. The Senate consists of 30 members which some are appointed by the king on recommendation of the advisory council and others elected by the lower house. The House of Assembly has 65 seats, 55 of which are occupied by elected representatives from the 55 constituencies around the country, 10 appointed by the king on recommendation of the advisory council and the attorney general is the ex-officio member. Elections are held every five years.
In 1968, Swaziland adopted a Westminster-style constitution, but in 1973 King Sobhuza II on the advice of parliament at the time suspended it due to widespread complaints by citizens of the country. In 2001, King Mswati III appointed a committee to draft a new constitution. Drafts were released for comment in May 1999 and November 2000. These were strongly criticized by civil society organizations in Swaziland and human rights organizations elsewhere. In 2005, the constitution was put into effect, though there is still much debate in the country about the constitutional reforms. From the early seventies, there was active resistance to the royal hegemony. However despite complaints from progressive formations, strong support for the monarchy and the current political system by the majority of the population is still there. This is due to the fact that submissions were made by citizens around the country to commissions including the constitutional draft committee that they would prefer for now to keep the current status quo.
The Swazi bicameral Parliament or Libandla consists of the Senate (30 seats; 10 members appointed by the House of Assembly and 20 appointed by the monarch; to serve five-year terms) and the House of Assembly (65 seats; 10 members appointed by the monarch and 55 elected by popular vote; to serve five-year terms) elections: House of Assembly – last held 19 September 2008 (next to be held in 2013) election results: House of Assembly – balloting is done on a non-party basis; candidates for election are nominated by the local council of each constituency and for each constituency the three candidates with the most votes in the first round of voting are narrowed to a single winner by a second round.
Administrative divisions of Swaziland
1 - Hhohho
2 - Lubombo
3 - Manzini
4 - Shiselweni
Swaziland is divided into four districts:
Each district is further divided into tinkhundla. There are 55 tinkhundla in Swaziland and each elects one representative to the House of Assembly of Swaziland.
Swaziland lies across a geological fault which runs from the Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho, north through the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, forms the Great Rift Valley of Kenya and, eventually, peters out in present-day Turkey.
Landscape in Swaziland
A small, land-locked Kingdom, Swaziland is bordered in the North, West and South by the Republic of South Africa and by Mozambique in the East. Although Swaziland has a land area of only 17,364 km2, roughly the size of Wales or the American State of New Jersey, it contains four separate geographical regions. These run from North to South and are determined by altitude.
Swaziland is located at approximately 26o49'S, 31o38'E. Swaziland also offers a wide variety of landscapes, from the mountains along the Mozambican border to savannas in the east and rain forest in the northwest. Several rivers flow through the country, such as the Great Usuthu River.
Along the eastern border with Mozambique is the Lubombo, a mountain ridge, at an altitude of around 600 meters. The mountains are broken by the canyons of three rivers, the Ngwavuma, the Usutu and the Mbuluzi. This is cattle ranching country.
The western border of the country, with an average altitude of 1200 meters, lies on the edge of an escarpment. Between the mountains rivers rush through deep gorges making this a most scenic region. Mbabane, the capital, is located on the Highveld.
The Middleveld, lying at an average 700 meters above sea level is the most densely populated region of Swaziland with a lower rainfall than the mountains. Manzini, the principal commercial and industrial city, is situated in the Middleveld.
The Lowveld of Swaziland, at around 250 meters, is less populated than other areas and presents a typical African bush country of thorn trees and grasslands. Development of the region was inhibited, in early days, by the scourge of malaria.
The seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere with December being mid-summer and June mid-winter. Generally speaking, rain falls mostly during the summer months, often in the form of thunderstorms. Winter is the dry season. Annual rainfall is highest on the Highveld in the West, between 1,000 and 2,000 mm (39.4 and 78.7 in) depending on the year. The further East, the less rain, with the Lowveld recording 500 to 900 mm (19.7 to 35.4 in) per annum. Variations in temperature are also related to the altitude of the different regions. The Highveld temperature is temperate and, seldom, uncomfortably hot while the Lowveld may record temperatures around 40 °C (104 °F) in summer.
The average temperatures at Mbabane, according to seasons:
Spring September – October 18 °C (64.4 °F)
Summer November – March 20 °C (68 °F)
Autumn April – May 17 °C (62.6 °F)
Winter June – August 13 °C (55.4 °F)
Swaziland’s economy is diversified, with agriculture, forestry and mining accounting for about 13% of GDP, manufacturing (textiles and sugar-related processing) representing 37% of GDP and services – with government services in the lead – constituting 50% of GDP. Title Deed Lands (TDLs), where the bulk of high value crops are grown (sugar, forestry, and citrus) are characterized by high levels of investment and irrigation, and high productivity. Nevertheless, the majority of the population – about 75%—is employed in subsistence agriculture on Swazi Nation Land (SNL), which, in contrast, suffers from low productivity and investment. This dual nature of the Swazi economy, with high productivity in textile manufacturing and in the industrialized agricultural TDLs on the one hand, and declining productivity subsistence agriculture (on SNL) on the other, may well explain the country’s overall low growth, high inequality and unemployment.
Economic growth in Swaziland has lagged behind that of its neighbors. Real GDP growth since 2001 has averaged 2.8%, nearly 2 percentage points lower than growth in other Southern African Customs Union (SACU) member countries. Low agricultural productivity in the SNLs, repeated droughts, the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS and an overly large and inefficient government sector are likely contributing factors. Swaziland’s public finances deteriorated in the late 1990s following sizable surpluses a decade earlier. A combination of declining revenues and increased spending led to significant budget deficits.
The considerable spending did not lead to more growth and did not benefit the poor. Much of the increased spending has gone to current expenditures related to wages, transfers, and subsidies. The wage bill today constitutes over 15% of GDP and 55% of total public spending; these are some of the highest levels on the African continent. The recent rapid growth in SACU revenues has, however, reversed the fiscal situation, and a sizable surplus was recorded since 2006. SACU revenues today account for over 60% of total government revenues. On the positive side, the external debt burden has declined markedly over the last 20 years, and domestic debt is almost negligible; external debt as a percent of GDP was less than 20% in 2006.
The Swazi economy is very closely linked to the South African economy, from which it receives over 90% of its imports and to which it sends about 70% of its exports. Swaziland’s other key trading partners are the United States and the EU, from whom the country has received trade preferences for apparel exports (under the African Growth and Opportunity Act – AGOA – to the US) and for sugar (to the EU). Under these agreements, both apparel and sugar exports did well, with rapid growth and a strong inflow of foreign direct investment. Textile exports grew by over 200% between 2000 and 2005 and sugar exports increasing by more than 50% over the same period.
The continued vibrancy of the export sector is threatened by the removal of trade preferences for textiles, the accession to similar preferences for East Asian countries, and the phasing out of preferential prices for sugar to the EU market. Swaziland will thus have to face the challenge of remaining competitive in a changing global environment. A crucial factor in addressing this challenge is the investment climate. The recently concluded Investment Climate Assessment provides some positive findings in this regard, namely that Swaziland firms are among the most productive in Sub-Saharan Africa, although they are less productive than firms in the most productive middle-income countries in other regions. They compare more favorably with firms from lower middle income countries, but are hampered by inadequate governance arrangements and infrastructure.
Swaziland's currency is pegged to the South African rand, subsuming Swaziland's monetary policy to South Africa. Customs duties from the Southern African Customs Union, which may equal as much as 70% of government revenue this year, and worker remittances from South Africa substantially supplement domestically earned income. Swaziland is not poor enough to merit an IMF program; however, the country is struggling to reduce the size of the civil service and control costs at public enterprises. The government is trying to improve the atmosphere for foreign direct investment.
Swaziland is critically affected by the HIV and AIDS pandemic, which is now an existential threat to its society. As reported in the 2009 CIA World Factbook, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world (26% of all adults; more in other reports) and also the lowest life expectancy at 32 years, which is 6 years lower than the next lowest average of Angola. From another perspective, the last available World Health Organization data in 2002 shows that 61% of all deaths in the country were caused by HIV/AIDS. With a record crude death rate of 30 per 1000, this means that about 2% of the Swazi population dies from HIV every year. Chronic illnesses that are the most prolific causes of death in the developed world accounting only for a minute fraction of deaths in Swaziland; for example, heart disease, strokes, and cancer cause fewer than 5% of deaths in Swaziland in total, compared to 55% of all deaths yearly in the US.
In 2004, Swaziland acknowledged for the first time that it suffered an AIDS crisis, with 38.8% of tested pregnant women infected with HIV (see AIDS in Africa). Prime Minister Themba Dlamini declared a humanitarian crisis due to the combined effect of drought, land degradation, increased poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Life expectancy has fallen from 61 years in 2000 to 32 years in 2009. Tuberculosis is also a significant problem, with an 18% mortality rate. Many patients have a multi-drug resistant strain, and 83% are co-infected with HIV.
Public expenditure was at 4% of the GDP of the country, whereas private expenditure was at 2.3%.[specify] There were 16 physicians per 100,000 persons in the early 2000s.[specify] Infant mortality was at 110 per 1,000 in 2005,[specify] with the WHO showing that 47% of all deaths under 5 are caused by HIV/AIDS.
The principle Swazi social unit is the homestead, a traditional beehive hut thatched with dry grass. In a polygamous homestead, each wife has her own hut and yard surrounded by reed fences. There are three structures for sleeping, cooking, and storage (brewing beer). In larger homesteads there are also structures used as bachelors' quarters and guest accommodation.
Central to the traditional homestead is the cattle byre, a circular area enclosed by large logs interspaced with branches. The cattle byre has ritual as well as practical significance as a store of wealth and symbol of prestige. It contains sealed grain pits. Facing the cattle byre is the great hut which is occupied by the mother of the headman.
The headman is central to all homestead affairs and he is often polygamous. He leads through example and advises his wives on all social affairs of the home as well as seeing to the larger survival of the family. He also spends time socializing with the young boys, who are often his sons or close relatives, advising them on the expectations of growing up and manhood.
The Sangoma is a traditional diviner chosen by the ancestors of that particular family. The training of the Sangoma is called "kwetfwasa". At the end of the training, a graduation ceremony takes place where all the local sangoma come together for feasting and dancing. The diviner is consulted for various reasons, such the cause of sickness or even death. His diagnosis is based on "kubhula", a process of communication, through trance, with the natural super-powers. The Inyanga (a medical and pharmaceutical specialist in modern terms) possesses the bone throwing skill ("kushaya ematsambo") used to determine the cause of the sickness.
The most important cultural event in Swaziland is the Incwala ceremony. It is held on the fourth day after the full moon nearest the longest day, December 21. Incwala is often translated in English as 'first fruits ceremony', but the King's tasting of the new harvest is only one aspect among many in this long pageant. Incwala is best translated as 'Kingship Ceremony' : when there is no king, there is no Incwala. It is high treason for any other person to hold an Incwala.
Every Swazi may take part in the public parts of the Incwala. The climax of the event is the fourth day of the Big Incwala. The key figures are the King, Queen Mother, royal wives and children, the royal governors (indunas), the chiefs, the regiments, and the "bemanti" or "water people".
Swaziland's most well-known cultural event is the annual Reed Dance. In the eight day ceremony, girls cut reeds and present them to the queen mother and then dance. (There is no formal competition.) It is done in late August or early September. Only childless, unmarried girls can take part. The aims of the ceremony are to preserve girls' chastity, provide tribute labour for the Queen mother, and to encourage solidarity by working together. The royal family appoints a commoner maiden to be "induna" (captain) of the girls and she announces over the radio the dates of the ceremony. She will be an expert dancer and knowledgeable on royal protocol. One of the King's daughters will be her counterpart.
Today's Reed Dance is not an ancient ceremony, but developed out of the old "umchwasho" custom. In "umchwasho", all young girls were placed in a female age-regiment. If any girl fell pregnant outside of marriage, her family paid a fine of one cow to the local chief. After a number of years, when the girls had reached a marriageable age, they would perform labour service for the Queen Mother, ending with dancing and feasting. The country was under the chastity rite of "umchwasho" until 19 August 2005. This interpretation of "umchwasho" conflicts deeply with the common requirement of girls to be demonstrably fertile prior to marriage. Very young girls will usually have a child out of wedlock as proof of fertility. The child often is the offspring of the girl's intended, but when there seems to be no success there and the man's fertility is secretly questioned, the girl may go to a relative of the man's or even her own to demonstrate her fertility. This is a very closely guarded secret held by only those directly involved and the groom will never discover the secret. The child becomes the property of the girls father. And after the marriage prior to which the groom pays a specified dowry, the groom may then redeem his child from the father through an agreed compensation.
Education in Swaziland is now free at primary level mainly 1st and 2nd grades and also free for orphaned and vulnerable children but not compulsory. In 1996, the net primary school enrollment rate was 90.8%, with gender parity at the primary level. In 1998, 80.5% of children reached grade five. The University of Swaziland provides higher education.
The majority of Swaziland's population is ethnically Swazi, mixed with a small number of Zulu and White Africans, mostly people of British and Afrikaner descent. Traditionally Swazi have been subsistence farmers and herders, but most now mix such activities with work in the growing urban formal economy and in government. Some Swazi work in the mines in South Africa.
Swaziland also received Portuguese settlers and African refugees from Mozambique. Christianity in Swaziland is sometimes mixed with traditional beliefs and practices. Many traditionalists believe that most Swazi ascribe a special spiritual role to the monarch. Residents of Swaziland have the lowest documented life expectancy in the world at 31.88 years, less than half the world average of 69.4.
SiSwati (also known as Swati, Swazi or Seswati) is a Bantu language of the Nguni Group, spoken in Swaziland and South Africa. It has 2.5 million speakers and is taught in schools. It is an official language of Swaziland (along with English) and one of the official languages of South Africa.
About 76,000 people in the country speak Zulu. Tsonga, which is spoken by many people throughout the region is spoken by about 19,000 people in Swaziland. Afrikaans is also spoken by some residents of Afrikaner descent.
The most common religion in Swaziland is Christianity which totals 82.70% of the total population, in which various Protestant and indigenous African churches, including African Zionist, constitute the majority of the Christians, followed closely by Roman Catholicism. There are also non-Christian religions practiced in the country such as Islam (0.95%), the Bahá'í Faith (0.5%), and Hinduism (0.15%).
^ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009) (PDF). World Population Prospects, Table A.1. 2008 revision. United Nations. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
^ a b c d "Swaziland". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
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