total: 17,364 sq km
land: 17,204 sq km
water: 160 sq km
total: 546 km
border countries (2):
Mozambique 108 km,
South Africa 438 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
varies from tropical to near temperate
mostly mountains and hills; some moderately sloping plains
mean elevation: 305 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Great Usutu River 21 m
highest point: Emlembe 1,862 m
asbestos, coal, clay, cassiterite, hydropower, forests, small gold and diamond deposits, quarry stone, and talc
agricultural land: 68.3%
arable land 9.8%; permanent crops 0.8%; permanent pasture 57.7%
other: 0% (2011 est.)
500 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
because of its mountainous terrain, the population distribution is uneven throughout the country, concentrating primarily in valleys and plains
People and Society
The population of Eswatini (Swaziland) in 2017 was estimated by the United Nations (CIA Factbook) at 1,467,152, which placed it at number 154 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2017, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 43% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 93 males for every 100 females in the country. The projected population for the year 2025 was 1,800,000. The population density was 86 per sq km (170 per sq mi).
Eswatini is a small, predominantly rural, landlocked country surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique, suffers from severe poverty and the world’s highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. A weak and deteriorating economy, high unemployment, rapid population growth, and an uneven distribution of resources all combine to worsen already persistent poverty and food insecurity, especially in rural areas. Maternal and child mortality rates for Swaziland remain amongst the highest in the region. The maternal mortality rate was measured at 590 per 100,000 live births in 2007 (Central Statistical Office and Macro Int. 2008). In the same year, the under-5 mortality rate was 83 per 1,000 live births, while the infant mortality rate was 59 per 1,000 live births. The immunization rate was 82 percent nationally.
Swazis, mainly men from the country’s rural south, have been migrating to South Africa to work in coal, and later gold, mines since the late 19th century. Although the number of miners abroad has never been high in absolute terms because of Eswatini’s small population, the outflow has had important social and economic repercussions. The peak of mining employment in South Africa occurred during the 1980s. The cross-border movement has accelerated since the 1990s, as increasing unemployment has pushed more Swazis to look for work in South Africa (creating a “brain drain” in the health and educational sectors); southern Swazi men have continued to pursue mining, although the industry has downsized. Women now make up an increasing share of migrants and dominate cross-border trading in handicrafts, using the proceeds to purchase goods back in Eswatini. Much of today’s migration, however, is not work-related but focuses on visits to family and friends, tourism, and shopping.
1,467,152 (July 2017 est.)
African 97%, European 3%
English (official, used for government business), siSwati (official)
Christian 90% (Zionist – a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship – 40%, Roman Catholic 20%, other 30% – includes Anglican, Methodist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness), Muslim 2%, other 8% (includes Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, indigenous religionist, Jewish) (2015 est.)
Ethnicity, Language, and Religion
The Swati people were originally a clan in Central Africa under the leadership of Dlamini I. This royal clan was called Dlamini after the chief of the clan. The Dlamini established a kingdom in the sixteenth century under King Sobhuza I and migrated southwards through Tanzania and Mozambique. The Swazi people are named after King Mswati II who served. The population of Swaziland comprises 97% Africans and 3% Europeans. The Swazi people are a Bantu community, with three-quarters of the African clan groups being the Nguni tribe. Other main tribes include the Sotho and Tsonga. There is a small difference between the Swati clans owing to the free intermarriage and exchange of cultures between both the locals and the foreigners. The Swati obtain their unique identity through their loyalty to the twin monarchs, Ngwenyama and Ndlovukati. Ngwenyama is the king while Ndlovukati is the queen mother.
SiSwati 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. English is the medium of communication in schools and in conducting business including the press. 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. Portuguese has been introduced as a 3rd language in the schools, due to the large community of Portuguese speakers from Mozambique.
Most of the population is Christian, with about 40% of the population affiliated with the Zionist Church, professing a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship. About 20% of the population is Roman Catholic. Other Christian denominations include Anglicans, Methodists, and Mormons (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). About 10% of the population are Muslims and there are small groups of Jews and Baha’is. Muslims and Baha’is are generally located in urban areas. The constitution does not specifically guarantee religious freedom, but that right is generally respected by the government and relations between religious groups are amicable.
The education sector in Swaziland was recently the subject of two comprehensive assessments conducted by the World Bank. The reports are guiding the country’s efforts to transform its education sector to become a more substantive driving force in Swaziland’s development, particularly now that the country is at a critical economic juncture.
As of 2007, there were 556 formally recognized primary schools in Swaziland operated by both governmental and non-governmental providers. The 232,572 learners enrolled in school at the time that the 2006/07 DHS was carried out represented 84 percent of eligible children – of which 48 percent was female (Central Statistical Office and Macro Int. 2008). Enrolment is beginning to increase sharply as Swaziland roles out free and compulsory primary education. However, currently, school fees have only been eliminated for Standards 1 and 2.
In 2007, there were 43 junior secondary schools enrolling 60,002 learners, and 157 senior secondary schools enrolling 22,834 learners (Marope 2010). 48 percent of each group was female. An estimated 3,000 learners were enrolled in illegal or non-recognised schools operating as private businesses and hence not included within the relevant institutional policies and processes. The enrolment figures illustrate the stark reality of severely limited opportunities for older children and adolescents to pursue education after primary level. It is estimated that 74 percent of age-eligible children and adolescents for junior secondary school and 88 percent of age-eligible adolescents for senior secondary school are not enrolled in any one school year (Marope 2010)
There are 57 publicly funded and 27 privately supported institutions providing TVET programmes in Swaziland. In 2009, there were approximately 1,000 spaces across all of the public and private programme providers (Marope 2010). It has been estimated that the annual number of school leavers both desiring and eligible to participate in TVET is 14,000. Only 7 percent of this group gains admission to TVET programmes in any one academic year. The University of Swaziland (UNISWA), which was established in 1982, is the only tertiary institution in the country. In 2008, UNISWA enrolled 5,440 students. This represented approximately 4.2 percent of the eligible young adults wanting to pursue their education at the tertiary level.
Swaziland depends on South Africa for a majority of its exports and imports. 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 almost half of its revenue. Swaziland is a lower middle-income country. As of 2017, more than one-quarter of the adult population was infected by HIV/AIDS; Eswatini has the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate. With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of about $3,000, Swaziland is classified as a lower middle-income country. Eswatini is very closely linked to South Africa on which it depends for about 85% of its imports and about 60% of exports.
Growth slowed down to 0.4 in 2015, slightly improved to 1.4 in 2016 and 1.9 in 2017 and is projected at 1.3 and 2% in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The slowdown is due to continued drought and a difficult external environment, especially from South Africa, leading to a sharp decrease in South African Customs Union (SACU) revenues. Such a decrease in revenue, combined with increased public spending, is generating higher fiscal deficits and a growing public debt. Under the current policy stance, the public debt to GDP ratio could increase from 17.4% in 2015 to 24% in 2018, increasing risks of fiscal unsustainability.
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, although a drought in 2015-16 decreased sugar production and exports. Overgrazing, soil depletion, drought, and floods are persistent problems. 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, Eswatini’s need to increase the number and size of small and medium enterprises and to attract foreign direct investment is acute.
As a consequence of severe drought, up to a quarter of the population remains food- and water- insecure and deeply vulnerable, and many households are still reliant on welfare or social safety nets. The regions with the highest prevalence of food insecurity are Lubombo and Shiswelweni, the areas most affected by the drought. Conditions are expected to improve in 2017/18 due to improvements in agricultural production (crops and livestock) and somewhat lower prices for food. Improvements can be seen at the national level, but persistent drier conditions in parts of the low-producing regions, heavy rains in February, and an outbreak of armyworms are likely to constrain yields.
Swaziland’s national development strategy, which expires in 2022, prioritizes increases in infrastructure, agriculture production, and economic diversification while aiming to reduce poverty and government spending. Swaziland’s revenue from SACU receipts is likely to continue to decline as South Africa pushes for a new distribution scheme, making it harder for the government to maintain fiscal balance without introducing new sources of revenue. Swaziland was admitted back into Africa Growth Opportunity Agreement (AGOA) in December 2017 after three years of suspension. Full benefits from AGOA are expected in the medium term as it might take time to resuscitate the textile firms that closed after the loss of trade benefits from AGOA in 2015. The restoration of AGOA might see the trade balance between the United States and Swaziland turning positive in 2018 in favor of Swaziland after being negative for the past three years.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$11.34 billion (2017 est.)
$11.31 billion (2016 est.)
$11.31 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$4.03 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
0.3% (2017 est.)
0% (2016 est.)
1.1% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$9,900 (2017 est.)
$10,000 (2016 est.)
$10,100 (2015 est.)
Gross national saving:
11.1% of GDP (2017 est.)
12.8% of GDP (2016 est.)
23% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 48.6% (2017 est.)
Agriculture – products:
sugarcane, corn, cotton, citrus, pineapples, cattle, goats
soft drink concentrates, coal, forestry, sugar processing, textiles, and apparel
Population below poverty line:
63% (2010 est.)
revenues: $1.15 billion
expenditures: $1.475 billion (2017 est.)
Swaziland’s agricultural sector is the second largest contributor to the economy after the manufacturing sector. The commercial agriculture sector is dominated by sugar, canned fruit and beef production for export. Many Swazis practice subsistence farming, mainly maize cultivation. The country is historically a net importer of maize, and the quantity demanded depends significantly on unreliable rainfall. Besides subsistence production, the country meets much of its demand for agricultural products through imports from South Africa. In 2012/2013 maize cultivation increased from 76.0 metric tons in the previous year to 82.0 metric tons. Source: Central Bank of Swaziland 2013/2014 report.
Sugar used to be the mainstay of the economy until it was overtaken by fruit concentrates. However, it remains the country’s largest source of employment. Maize, the country’s staple food, and cotton are the main products of SNL farmers. Large-scale cotton production is being introduced as the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation begins to diversify into this crop. Oranges and grapefruit are grown for export on large estates, mainly controlled by Europeans, and mainly in the Low-Veld area. Value-added activities in the sector include the processing and preserving of fruit and vegetables, the processing of vegetable and animal oils and fats, dairy products, grain mill products especially wheat which is wholly imported, prepared animal feeds, sugar refining, cocoa, chocolate, and sugar confectionery amongst other food products.
Swaziland beef exports were mixed. Swaziland exports its beef to the European and Norwegian markets. In 2013 Swaziland was able to exceed its Norwegian quota of 500 metric tons for the consecutive year. To the European market, Swaziland exported 701 metric tons of boneless beef in 2013 compared to 692 metric tons in 2012. On the positive side, production of processed meat is projected to remain on the upward trend as there is a continuous investment on improving productivity and efficiencies mainly by the export abattoir. EU and Norwegian markets are good prospects for the beef industry in the medium term, subject though to the continuity of the trade agreements.
Prospects for the sugar industry are mixed. Sugar production is expected to increase as a result of the expansion of cane growing area under the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation project. The area is projected to increase by 607 hectares with an anticipated increase in yields and sugar production to increase by 4 percent. Cattle are the traditional sign of wealth, and 80 percent of the cattle population remains in the hands of Swazi smallholders. The traditional nature of cattle raising has led to the slow development of the meat industry, as there is a strong resistance to offering cattle for slaughter. Domestic milk production is increasing and beef, tinned and frozen, is exported to the EU and South Africa.
population without electricity: 900,000
electrification – total population: 27%
electrification – urban areas: 40%
electrification – rural areas: 24% (2013)
Electricity – production:
431 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
1.481 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
0 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – imports:
1.08 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
281,000 kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
35.6% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 42,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 3 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 68 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
percent of population: 28.6% (July 2016 est.)
Industry and Mining
The industrial sector is dominated by agro-industries involving local sugar, wood pulp, citrus and other fruit, cotton, and meat. Swaziland has been successful in attracting investment from Coca-Cola (which opened a concentrate plant in 1986) and Cadbury (which opened a new sweets factory in 1989). These, combined with continued investment from the Far East (4 Taiwanese-owned textile plants were opened in 1986), and investments in the mid-1990s in refrigerator production, means that the manufacturing sector continues to grow. However, there has been some domestic unrest caused by low wages.
Swaziland is a net importer of maize and yet it is a staple food for the country. But in 2013/2014 prospects for maize industry were positive in the medium term. During the 2013/2014 planting season, adequate rainfall was received in most parts of the country. The area planted in during that year increased by 40 percent with an estimated output of 101,000 metric tons. The government increased a fleet of subsidized tractors to farmers to minimize delay in cultivation.
Wheat is the only cereal with a significant import share from a country other than South Africa. Culturally, what is not a staple food in Swaziland. However, because of government price controls on bread and poor maize yields, people are consuming increasing amounts of imported wheat. Ngwane Mills is the importer, miller, and distributor of wheat and wheat products in Swaziland. Ngwane Mills now also mills and distributes maize products.
Mining has fallen in importance since the 1960s, contributing only about 1 percent of the GDP in 1997-98. High-grade iron ore was exhausted by 1978, and health concerns have reduced the world demand for asbestos. Asbestos mining (by a joint venture between the government and a South African Company, HVL Asbestos) is nevertheless the principal mining activity. Production was 27,700 tons in 1998, and most of this was exported. Deposits are mainly in the High-Veld.
The diamond mine at Dvokolwako closed at the end of 1996. A new coal mine at Maloma in the south of the country opened in 1993 which produces mainly anthracite for export to Europe (203,100 tons in 1997 and 410,000 tons in 1998). It replaced the now-closed Mpaka Mine as the main source of coal. Stone is quarried at 3 centers, and production is increasing. Local construction and roads industries take all stone production.
Banking and Finance
The Central Bank of Swaziland is the monetary authority responsible for management of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, administration of exchange controls, and regulation of financial institutions. There are four main commercial banks operating in Swaziland: First National Bank of Swaziland, Nedbank, SwaziBank, and Standard Bank. The government-owned Swaziland Development and Savings Bank went bankrupt due to millions of dollars of unpaid loans in June 1995 and is now operating, although the Swaziland Government in its 2010/2011 Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap listed the bank as one of the institutions that will be privatized.
The well-established commercial banking system in Swaziland comprises Nedbank (Swaziland), Standard Bank Swaziland and First National Bank Swaziland, all of which are affiliated to South African banks. First National Bank and Standard Bank Swaziland offer online banking alongside traditional banking services. Nedbank (Swaziland) is alone in offering microfinance services (2012). It is listed on the national stock exchange and is partly owned by the government; the Swazi Government also has a minority holding in Standard Bank Swaziland. Other banking institutions include the Swaziland Development and Savings Bank and Swaziland Building Society which is the main long-term mortgage provider. Each of the operating banks has at least two branches. Normal banking facilities are provided at all four banks and interest rates on borrowing are below those in South Africa. The prime lending rate is 8.50 percent and the mortgage rate is 7.75 percent (April 2015).
Through Swaziland’s membership in the Common Monetary Area (CMA), after-tax profits can be repatriated anywhere the investor chooses. The corporate tax rate is 30 percent, and new businesses can apply for a 10-year rate of 10 percent. Dividends, subject to a withholding tax of 15 percent, are likewise freely remitted. There are no exchange regulations affecting transactions within the CMA. Export financing is available through the Export-Import Bank but must be applied for by a Swazi partner. There are no Export-Import Bank bundling facilities in Swaziland. Project financing is available through such multilateral institutions as the World Bank and African Development Bank. In the past, resources have gone largely to infrastructure development, including roads and irrigation systems.
Tourism in Swaziland is a successful industry. Most of the tourists who visit Swaziland arrive by road from South Africa. Swaziland’s tourism industry developed during the apartheid era in South Africa and this shaped many of its distinctive attractions. Since the end of apartheid, Swaziland has emphasized its traditional culture as a tourist attraction. The intriguing kingdom of Swaziland is diminutive but boasts a huge checklist for any visitor. Rewarding wildlife watching, Adrenaline-boosting activities such as rafting and mountain biking. Lively and colorful local culture, with celebrations and ceremonies still common practice. Plus there are superb walking trails, stunning mountain and flatland scenery, varied accommodation options and excellent, high-quality handicrafts.
Unlike South Africa, Swaziland has managed to hold on to that slow-down-this-is-Africa feeling and that’s why it’s gaining in popularity. Everything remains small and personable and the atmosphere is remarkably relaxed. Instead of making a flying visit here on your way to Kruger National Park, KwaZulu-Natal or Mozambique, consider staying at least a week to do the country justice. If you plan a visit during the winter months, try to make it coincide with the Umhlanga (reed) festival, one of Africa’s biggest cultural events.
Place of Attractions
Hlane Royal National Park; In truth, there’s simply no other wildlife reserve in all of Swaziland that can live up to the sheer wealth of bucket-list sights and the mind-boggling biodiversity that Hlane has. After all, this is the only (repeat: only) place in the nation where it’s possible to track down a lion (which have recently been repatriated), an elephant, and a rhino, all in the same day – that’s three of the Big Five! What’s more, the safari experience here is well-developed, with rustic campsites next to more built-up lodges.
Privately-owned Mbuluzi Game Reserve offers a peaceful retreat on the banks of the croc-filled Mlawula River. The top activity here is self-guided wildlife safaris to see animals such as giraffe, zebra, kudu, jackal, wildebeest, and nyala during the day and possibly hyena, genets, servals, and honey badgers during the night. Birding is also particularly rewarding with more than 300 species, including the beautiful Narina trogon.
A mere 95,000 people call Mbabane home, which should give you just a clue as to how large Swaziland is as a whole! After all, this town of low-rise bungalows and palm-dotted streets is the official capital, even if it’s sat more than 1,200 meters up in the Mdzimba Mountains. The altitude is great for avoiding the scorching heat of the tropical plains below though, while the heritage and cultural attractions here are pretty good too.
In the lovely Ezulwini Valley, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is one of Swaziland’s first conservation areas and its most popular game reserve. It was established by Ted and Elizabeth Reilly, who turned their farm at Mlilwane into a game reserve with the support of King Sobhuza II.
In northwest Swaziland, the 18,000-hectare Malolotja Nature Reserve is the largest protected area in the country. The name means “river with many rapids and waterfalls” for the reserve is sliced by the Malolotja River, which forms a series of waterfalls, including the country’s highest cascades, the Malolotja Falls. Habitats range from wetlands and grasslands to thick riverine forest, and wildflowers brighten the beautiful landscapes in spring and summer.
The earliest known inhabitants of the region were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by the Kashian hunter-tribe during the Bantu migrations. These peoples hailed from the Great Lakes regions of eastern and central Africa. Evidence of agriculture and iron use dates from about the 4th century. People speaking languages ancestral to current Sotho and Nguni languages began settling no later than the 11th century. The Swazi nation is a relatively recent political grouping, the main amalgamation of clans having taken place under Dlamini military hegemony about the middle of the 19th century. However, the record of human settlement in what is now Eswatini stretches far back into prehistory. The earliest stone tools, found on ancient river terraces, date back more than 200,000 years, and later stone implements are associated with evidence of Homo sapiens from perhaps as long ago as 100,000 years.
About 40,000 years ago the inhabitants were quarrying red and black hematite ore for cosmetic purposes on the top of the Ngwenya massif. This ranks as one of the world’s earliest mining and trading activities, and mining continued for many thousands of years after that. Much later—about 20,000 years ago—the archaeological record reveals occupation by the ancestors of the San hunter-gatherers, who created the distinctive rock paintings found throughout the western part of the country. About 2,000 years ago groups of Bantu-speaking peoples (Nguni, Sotho, and Tswana) moved southward across the Limpopo River. They cultivated crops, kept livestock (sheep and goats), used pottery, and smelted iron—hence their designation as Early Iron Age peoples. At a later date, cattle were introduced. These people are recorded at Ngwenya, where the mining of iron ore has been dated to about 400 CE.
The earliest known inhabitants of the region were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by the kashian hunter tribe during Bantu migrations who hailed from the Great Lakes regions of eastern and central 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 Swazi settlers, then known as the Ngwane (or bakaNgwane), before entering Swaziland had been settled on the banks of the Pongola River and prior to that in the area of the Tembe River near present-day Maputo. Continuing conflict with the Ndwandwe people pushed them further north, with Ngwane III establishing his capital at Shiselweni at the foot of the Mhlosheni hills. Under Sobhuza I, the Ngwane people eventually established their capital at Zombodze in the heartland of present-day Swaziland. In this process, they conquered and incorporated the long-established clans of the country known to the Swazi as Emakhandzambili.
The Swazi Nation
The early Swazis (bemdzabuko) lived around the present day Tembe River near Maputo, Mozambique. Dlamini I was able to increase his followers by conquering many clans along the Lubombo after departure from Tembe. As part of the Nguni expansion southwards, the Swazis crossed the Limpopo River and settled in southern Tongaland (today in southern Mozambique near Maputo) in the late fifteenth century. The Ngwane people are recorded as having entered the present territory of Swaziland around the year 1600. As part of the Nguni expansion southwards, the Swazis crossed the Limpopo River and settled in southern Tongaland (today in southern Mozambique near Maputo) in the late fifteenth century. The Ngwane people are recorded as having entered the present territory of Swaziland around the year 1600.
During the leadership of Ngwane III Swazis settled present-day Swaziland. These Swazis first settled north of the Pongola River. The Ngwane Kingdom was thus established during the rule of Ngwane III from around 1745 until 1780. The early Swazi people emigrated from the Lubombo mountains where Swazi rulers were established to the banks of the Pongola River. The leader, Ngwane III established the Swazi settlements here near the Ndwandwe Kingdom. Swazis were in constant conflict with their neighbors, the Ndwandwes. The capital of Ngwane III was in Southern Swaziland in Shiselweni at the foot of the Mhlosheni Mountains near Nhlangano and Mahamba. Swazis established a polity based on Kingship accompanied by Queen Mothers and during the minority of a crown prince a Queen Regent. Thus when Ngwane died, LaYaka Ndwandwe became Queen Regent until Ndvungunye became the King. The kingship of Ndvungunye continued the order established by Ngwane III from 1780 until 1815 when he was killed by lightning. He was succeeded by Ngwane IV after the regency of Queen Regent Lomvula Mndzebele. Ngwane IV was also known as Sobhuza I or Somhlohlo (“The Wonder”)—a revered king of Swaziland. Sobhuza continued to expand the territory of Swaziland.
In 1820 under their new king—Sobhuza I, they moved northward to establish a safer heartland in central Eswatini (the Middleveld). There the Dlamini consolidated their power under Sobhuza I and his son Mswati II. Part of this success must be attributed to Sobhuza’s adoption of the Zulu age-group system of military organization, which created regiments across clan loyalties and which was at all times strictly disciplined. By 1860 they had extended their power through conquest and assimilation far beyond the boundaries of present-day Eswatini under Mswati II, whom later generations described as “their greatest fighting king” and who gave his name to the nation. At the peak of their power, however, a new factor had emerged in the regional geopolitics, which over the next 40 years caused the gradual contraction of Swazi territorial and political authority. This was the competing pressure from the expanding Boer republic of the Transvaal and from the growing British imperial presence, especially after the discovery in South Africa of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1871.
Swazi contact with European began when Dutch Trekboers reached the western hinterland of Swaziland in the 1840s. By 1845 about 300 Boer families had settled in Ohristad with more families in Lydenburg. Two deeds of sale dated 1846 and 1855 indicate the sale of Swazi territory to the Dutch republics for a sum of 170 cattle. These deeds at face value seemed to surrender the whole of the Swazi territory to the Dutch. Following the death of King Mswati II in 1868, a period of regency followed with Queen Regent Tsandzile Ndwandwe until 1875. The South African Republic in 1868 attempted to annex Swaziland by a proclamation. Mbandzeni, following the death of his half-brother, the crown prince Ludvonga in 1872, was chosen by Inkhosikati LaMgadlela Khumalo as her adopted son and hence a crown prince. the Transvaal Boers wanted to assert their authority over Swaziland by supporting Mbandzeni.
In 1879, the same year as the Zulu war, Mbandzeni aided the British who were now controlling the Transvaal to defeat Sekhukhune and dismantle his kingdom. In return for his assistance, Swaziland’s independence was to be guaranteed perpetually and Swaziland would be protected from Boer and Zulu encroachment. n 1881 the Pretoria convention establishing the British suzerainty over the Transvaal State, article 24 guaranteed the independence of Swaziland, its boundary and Swazi people in their country as recognized by both Britain and the Transvaal. Under this convention, the Swazi territory was reduced in size, leaving Swazi people as residents of the Transvaal territory in what is today Mpumalanga province in South Africa. in the years between 1885 and 1889, as more concessions were granted, the population of Europeans in Swaziland increased. Unease with some concessionaires led to Mbandzeni to request British intervention. In addition to this, Boer encroachments, especially in 1887, increased the intensity of these requests. The situation in the country continued to deteriorate as some raids, cattle rustling and stealing of children from Swazi villages by Boers continued.
In 1890, under a convention between the British government and the South African Republic, a provisional government consisting of representatives of the two powers and a representative of the Swazi people was set up. In 1893 the British government signed a new convention permitting the South African Republic to negotiate with the Swazi regent and her counsel for a proclamation allowing the republic to assume powers of jurisdiction, legislation, and administration without the incorporation of Swaziland, as it was then known, into the republic. The Swazi refused to sign the proclamation, but in 1894 another convention was signed by the two powers, virtually giving unilateral effect to its terms. After the South African War of 1899–1902 all the rights and powers of the republic passed to Great Britain, and in June 1903, by an order in council under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, the governor of the Transvaal was empowered to administer Swaziland and to legislate by proclamation. In 1906 these powers were transferred to a high commissioner for Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Swaziland.
In 1903, after the British victory in the Anglo-Boer war, Swaziland became a British protectorate. Throughout the colonial period from 1906 to 1968, Swaziland was governed by a resident commissioner who ruled according to decrees issued by the British High Commissioner for South Africa. Such decrees were formulated in close consultation with the resident commissioners, who in turn took informal and formal advice from white settler interests and the Swazi royalty. In 1907 during the residency of Robert Coryndon, Swazi land was partition into a third for Swazi nation land or reserves and the remaining two thirds into the crown and commercial land for European occupation. The partition was carried out in 1909 with Swazis living in European areas given five years to vacate the land. In 1921 the British established Swaziland’s first legislative body—a European Advisory Council (EAC) of elected white representatives mandated to advise the British high commissioner on non-Swazi affairs. Also in 1921, after more than 20 years of regency headed by Queen Regent Labotsibeni, Sobhuza II became Ingwenyama (lion) or head of the Swazi nation.
In the period between 1923 and 1963, Sobhuza II established the Swazi Commercial Amadoda which was to grant licenses to small businesses on the Swazi reserves and also established the Swazi National School to counter the dominance of the missions in education. His stature grew with time and the Swazi royal leadership was successful in resisting the weakening power of the British administration and the incorporation of Swaziland into the Union of South Africa. In 1944, the high commissioner both reconstituted the basis and role of the EAC, and, over Swazi objections, issued a Native Authorities Proclamation constituting the paramount chief or Ingwenyama and King to the Swazis, as the British called the king, the native authority for the territory to issue legally enforceable orders to the Swazis subject to restrictions and directions from the resident commissioner. Under pressure from royal non-cooperation, this proclamation was revised in 1952 to grant the Swazi paramount chief a degree of autonomy unprecedented in British colonial indirect rule in 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 constitution for independent Swaziland was promulgated by Britain in November 1963 under the terms of which legislative and executive councils were established. 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. 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. The following year, elections for a legislative council were held under the country’s first constitution. After further constitutional talks, held in London in 1965, Swaziland became an independent nation within the Commonwealth on 6 September 1968.
Leading up to independence, the INM had solidified its political base. Having done this, the INM incorporated many demands of the more radical parties, especially that of immediate independence. In 1966, the UK 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 first 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.
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 the 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 Ingwenyama Mswati III on April 25, 1986. Shortly afterward he abolished the Liqoqo. In November 1987, a new parliament was elected and a new cabinet appointed.
The 1990s saw a rise in student and labor protests pressuring the king to introduce reforms. Thus, progress toward constitutional reforms began, culminating with the introduction of the current Swaziland constitution in 2005. This happened despite objections by political activists. The current constitution does not clearly deal with the status of political parties. On 19 April 2018, the King of Swaziland Mswati III announced that the Kingdom of Swaziland had renamed itself the Kingdom of eSwatini to mark the 50th anniversary of Swazi independence. The new name, eSwatini, means “land of the Swazis” in Swazi, and was partially intended to prevent confusion with the similarly named Switzerland. However, the country’s common name in English remains Swaziland.