Here’s What You Need to Know About Swaziland

Swaziland

About Swaziland

Swaziland, often called Ngwane or Swatini, is landlocked country in Southern Africa. South Africa borders the country to the north, south, and west and Mozambique to the east.

Swaziland is small and is no larger than 200 km north to south and 130 km east to west. The western part of Swaziland is mountainous and moves to a Lowveld eastern region. An escarpment of the Lemombo Mountains is on the eastern border with Mozambique and South Africa.

Swaziland’s area has been inhabited since prehistory. Most of the population today is ethic Swazis who speak siSwati. English is often a second language. The Swazi people descend from the Bantu who migrated to the area in the 15th and 16th centuries. The U.K. made the area a protectorate after the Anglo-Boer War. Swaziland earned independence in 1968. The country belongs to the African Union, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Southern African Development Community. The king is the head of state. The prime minister is appointed by the king as are a small number of representatives for both parliamentary chambers. Elections are held every five years to determine most of the representatives. Swaziland adopted a new constitution in 2005.

The economy is mainly agriculture, industry, and manufacturing. The currency is pegged to the South African rand and South Africa is the largest trading partner. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a disastrous effect on the economy and country as a whole. Swaziland has the highest infection rate in the world, with over 212,900 people infected. The adult prevalence rate is 26.5% percent.

The population of Swaziland is estimated at 1,409,210 million (2019).

Swaziland: History

Human activity in Swaziland dates to the early Stone Age 200,000 years ago. Rock art paintings date to 25,000 BC.

Khoisans were the first inhabitants and were largely replaced by Bantu tribes. Iron use dates back to 4th century. Those known as the Swazi set up farming colonies in the 15th century. The Ndwandwe clans from the south pressured the Swazi.

The British controlled Swaziland in the 19th and 290th centuries. The British recognized Swaziland as an independent colony in 1881, but it was administered from South Africa. Controversial mineral concessions were part of the recognition. Swaziland was very involved in the Second Boer War.

Britain created the Swaziland Independence Constitution in 1963 and established a legislative and an executive council. The Swazi National Council opposed this.

The opposition did not stop elections from occurring in 1964. Britain accepted proposed changes to the constitution proposed by the new Legislative Council that provided for a Senate and a House of Assembly. Elections were held in 1967 under this constitution. Swaziland has seen a quiet struggle between activists seeking a multi-party system and supporters of the Tinkhundla system since 1973.

Government

The king, known as the Ngwenyama, is the head of state and is currently Mswati III. He became king in 1986 after his father, Sobhuza II, died and there was a period of regency. The king traditionally rules along with his mother or a substitute, known as the Ndlovukati. The Ndlovukati’s role became symbolic under Sobhuza II’s reign. The King appoints the prime minister, who is the head of government, and a small number of legislatures in both chambers.

There are 30 members in the Senate and 65 members in the House of Assembly. Elections are held every five years.

A Westminster-style constitution was adopted in 1968, but is was suspended in 1973 due to complaints by citizens. A committee was appointed to draft a new one in 2001. The constitution was put into effect in 2005, but the reforms are still debated. Resistance to the king’s rule began in the 1970s. There was still strong support in the public for the monarchy.

The last legislative elections were in 2013. Balloting is done on a non-party basis. The local council nominates candidates of each constituency and for every consistency the three candidates receiving the highest votes in the first round are narrowed to a winner in a second round.

Administrative Divisions

There are four divisions in Swaziland which are Hhohho, Lubombo, Manzini, and Shiselweni. These are subdivided into 55 tinkhundla. Each elects one member to the House of Assembly.

Geography

There is a geological fault across Swaziland that runs from Lesotho to present-day Turkey.

Landscape in Swaziland

Swaziland is landlocked and bordered by South Africa and Mozambique. Its land area is only 17,364 sq. km. There are four geographical regions. There are mountains on the border with Mozambique, savannas in the east, and rainforest in the northwest. There are several rivers, including the Great Usuthu River. Regions are the Lubombo, Highveld, Middleveld, and Lowveld.

Climate

Rain mostly falls in the summer months. Winter is the dry season. Most of the rain falls in the Highveld. Temperatures are temperate in the Highveld and hot in the Lowveld.

Economy

Swaziland’s currency is pegged to the South African rand, effectively relinquishing Swaziland’s monetary policy to South Africa. The government is dependent on customs duties from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) for 49% of revenue; income tax accounts for 27% and a valued added tax for 19% of revenues. Swaziland is a lower middle income country, but its income distribution is highly skewed, with an estimated 20% of the population controlling 80% of the nation’s wealth.

As of 2017, more than one-quarter of the adult population was infected by HIV/AIDS; Swaziland has the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate.Subsistence agriculture employs approximately 70% of the population. The manufacturing sector diversified in the 1980s and 1990s, but manufacturing has grown little in the last decade. Sugar and soft drink concentrate are the largest foreign exchange earners. Mining has declined in importance in recent years. Coal, gold, diamond, and quarry stone mines are small scale, and the only iron ore mine closed in 2014.With an estimated 28% unemployment rate, Swaziland’s need to increase the number and size of small and medium enterprises and to attract foreign direct investment is acute.

On 1 January 2015, Swaziland lost its eligibility for benefits under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act after failing to meet benchmarks relating to workers’ rights.The IMF forecasted that Swaziland’s economy will grow at a slower pace in 2017 because of a region-wide drought, which is likely to hurt Swaziland’s revenue from sugar exports and other agricultural products; tourism and transport sectors will also decline. Overgrazing, soil depletion, drought, and floods are persistent problems. Swaziland’s revenue from SACU receipts also are projected to decline in 2017, making it harder for the government to maintain fiscal balance.

Health

The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Swaziland is a major societal threat. The country’s infection rate is the highest in the world. Life expectancy is 50.54 years old, with  51.04 years for males and 50.04 years for females.

Swaziland first acknowledged it had an AIDS crisis in 2004. The Prime Minister, Themba Dlamini, declared a humanitarian crisis due to HIV/AIDS, drought, and land degradation. In 2000, life expectancy was 61 years and it was 32 in 2009. Tuberculosis is also a major problem.

Swaziland: Culture

The homestead is the traditional social unit, which is a thatched grass hut. In a polygamous homestead, each wife has her own hut.

The cattle byre is a circular area with large logs to enclose it. This is a place to store wealth and has social prestige.

A Songoma is a diviner who a particular family’s ancestors chose. Training is called kwetfwasa. The Songoma is consulted regarding many matters, even sickness. An Inyanga is a kind of traditional medical specialist that used bone throwing to determine a sickness’ cause.

The Incwala ceremony is the most important cultural event. It is related to the harvest and is held in honor of the king.

Public participation in the Incwala is mandatory.

In another event, the Reed Dance, girls present the queen mother with reeds. Girls must be unmarried and childless to take part.

Education

Primary education is free but not compulsory. Education expenditure is 8.3 percent of GDP. The country has a literacy rate of 87.8 percent. The University of Swaziland is available for higher education.

Demographics

Ethnic Swazi are the majority of the population. Zulus and white Africans also reside there. Many Swazi work in South Africa’s mines.

Portuguese settlers and refugees from Mozambique are also present in the country.

Languages

SiSwati is spoken widely in Swaziland and South Africa and is of Bantu origin. Along with English, it is an official language. It is taught in schools and has 2.5 million speakers. 76,000 people speak Zulu. Tsonga is only spoken by about 19,000 people.

Religions

Christianity is the most population religion with 82.7 percent of the people practicing. These consist of Protestants and indigenous African churches. Roman Catholics are also commonly found. At least 10 percent of the population is muslim.

ADC Editor
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