Swaziland -- Geography--
Official Name:Kingdom of Swaziland
Capital City:Lobamba (royal and legislative)
Mbabane (administrative; coordinates below)
Languages:SiSwati and English
Official Currency:Lilangeni (SZL)
Religions: Christianity,Roman Catholicism,Islam
Land Area: 17,364 km2
Landforms: Mountains,savannas and rain forest.
Administrative Divisions: Four districts:Hhohho,Lubombo,Manzini and Shiselweni
Swaziland -- History --
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).
At the start of the Anglo Boer war, Britain placed Swaziland under its direct jurisdiction as a Protectorate. Repeated representations, especially relating to land issues, by the King and his Councilors were rebuffed.
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 the monarchy.
Swaziland -- Economy --
Swaziland ’s economy is fairly diversified, with agriculture, forestry and mining accounting for about 13 percent of GDP, manufacturing (textiles and sugar-related processing) representing 37 percent of GDP and services – with government services in the lead – constituting 50 percent 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 percent—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 percent, 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 percent of GDP and 55 percent 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 percent 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 percent in 2006.
The Swazi economy is very closely linked to the South African economy, from which it receives over 90 percent of its imports and to which it sends about 70 percent 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 percent between 2000 and 2005 and sugar exports increasing by more than 50 percent 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 -- Culture --
The principle Swazi social unit remains the homestead. The traditional beehive hut is thatched with dry grass. In a polygamous homestead, each wife normally has her own huts and yard surrounded by reed fences for privacy. These comprise three structures mainly for sleeping, cooking and storage (brewing beer). In substantial homesteads there will also be structures used as bachelors' quarters and guest accommodation.
Central to the traditional homestead is the cattle byre, a circular area enclosed by substantial logs interspaced with branches. The cattle byre has great 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, talking about 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, there is a graduation ceremony where all the local tangoma come together for feasting and dancing. The diviner is consulted for various reasons pertaining to 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 given 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, especially the climax, 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 an 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:
1. preserve girls' chastity
2. provide tribute labour for the Queen mother
3. produce 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. The country was under the chastity rite of "umchwasho" until 19 August 2005.
Today's Reed Dance is not an ancient ceremony, but developed out of the old "umcwasho" custom. In "umcwasho", 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
Swaziland -- Political system, law and government --
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—but also appoints a small number of representatives for both chambers of the Libandla (parliament). The Senate consists of 30 members, while the House of Assembly has 65 seats, 55 of which are occupied by nominated representatives. Elections are held every five years in November.
In 1968, Swaziland adopted a Westminster-style constitution, but in 1973 King Sobhuza suspended it under a royal decree backed by the royalist majority of parliament: in effect a coup by the government against its own constitution. The State of Emergency has since been lifted, or so the government claims even though political activities, especially by pro-democracy movements, are suppressed. 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.
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.