Find a Security Clearance Job!


Swaziland - History

According to tradition, the people of the present Swazi nation migrated south before the 16th century from what is now Mozambique. Following a series of conflicts with people living in the area of modern Maputo, the Swazis settled in northern Zululand in about 1750. Unable to match the growing Zulu strength, the Swazis moved gradually northward in the 1800s and established themselves in the area of modern or present Swaziland.

They consolidated their hold under several able leaders. The most important was Mswati II, from whom the Swazis derive their name. Under his leadership in the 1840s, the Swazis expanded their territory to the northwest and stabilized the southern frontier with the Zulus.

Contact with the British came early in Mswati's reign, when he asked British authorities in South Africa for assistance against Zulu raids into Swaziland. It also was during Mswati's reign that the first whites settled in the country. Following Mswati's death, the Swazis reached agreements with British and South African authorities over a range of issues, including independence, claims on resources by Europeans, administrative authority, and security.

Swaziland had long been known as a country rich In minerals, and particularly in gold, and the whole of it was in the hands of concessionaries for mining, farming, grazing, &c. Its mineral wealth and agricultural resources caused it to be eagerly coveted by the Boers, who desired to absorb it and the adjoining strip along the coast, so that the Republic might have free access to the sea.

In the conventions with the Transvaal of 1881 and 1884 the British Government expressly stipulated for the independence of the Swazis. But already in 1878 the influx of European concession hunters into the territory had begun, and by 1888 an attempt was made by these men to set up within the native government a separate government for Europeans, the paramount chief, Mbandini, giving them a concession for this purpose. This first attempt at self-government broke down at the end of the year, and in the following year, which saw the death of Mbandini, the Transvaal and British Governments sent a joint commission to report on affairs.

The British Government refused to recognise the Dutch claims, and, by the Convention of 1890, it was agreed to recognise the independence of the Swazi king and people, and to entrust the government of the country to a Government Committee of three members, representing the British, Dutch, and Swazi Governments respectively.

A convention of July 24, 1890, between the British Government and the Republican Government, recognized the Commission as the governing body in Swaziland, and approved the establishment of a Chief Court with the special purpose of dealing with the innumerable concessions of every kind M and sort which the paramount chief had granted. The court was formally recognized by organic proclamations of Swaziland of September 13 and November 29, 1890, and it acted up to 1893, disposing of many concessions. In that year a new convention authorized the Republican Government to obtain an organic proclamation from the Swazi people conferring on the Republic powers of protection, administration, legislation, and jurisdiction, but the Swazi chiefs would not The Con. sign the proclamation, and instead a new convention of December 10, 1894, allowed the Republic to assume the proposed powers over Swaziland without the approval of the chiefs, but subject to certain conditions intended to safeguard the rights of the natives.

By the Convention, the British Government recognised the concession, granted by the Swazi king to the South African Republic, to construct a railway through Swaziland to the sea, at or near Kosi Bay. The Boer Government, however, continued to press its claims, and in spite of the protests of the natives and British settlers, the British Government in 1895 consented to allow the country to pass under the exclusive control of the Republic. South Africans administered the Swazi interests from 1894 to 1902.

The outbreak of war in 1899 resulted in the abandonment of the country, and a period of comparative anarchy followed, marked by a recrudescence of killing of alleged practisers of witchcraft. In 1902 the British assumed control.

The constitution was contained in the Orders in Council of June 25, 1903 and of December 1, 1906, which confer on the High Commissioner for South Africa full executive and legislative authority subject to the Crown, which may disallow any legislative proclamation and which issues instructions as to the administrative action of the High Commissioner. The details of the administration were regulated by Proclamation No. 4 of 1907. The actual conduct of government was entrusted to a Resident Commissioner, as in the case of Basutoland and the Bechuanaland Protectorate.

In 1921, after more than 20 years of rule by Queen Regent Lobatsibeni, Sobhuza II became Ngwenyama (lion) or head of the Swazi nation. The same year, Swaziland established its first legislative body--an advisory council of elected European representatives mandated to advise the British high commissioner on non-Swazi affairs. In 1944, the high commissioner conceded that the council had no official status and recognized the paramount chief, or king, as the native authority for the territory to issue legally enforceable orders to the Swazis.

In the early years of colonial rule, the British had expected that Swaziland would eventually be incorporated into South Africa. After World War II, however, South Africa's intensification of racial discrimination induced the United Kingdom to prepare Swaziland for independence. Political activity intensified in the early 1960s. Several political parties were formed and jostled for independence and economic development. The largely urban parties had few ties to the rural areas, where the majority of Swazis lived.

The traditional Swazi leaders, including King Sobhuza II and his Inner Council, formed the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM), a political group that capitalized on its close identification with the Swazi way of life. Responding to pressure for political change, the colonial government scheduled an election in mid-1964 for the first legislative council in which the Swazis would participate. In the election, the INM and four other parties, most having more radical platforms, competed in the election. The INM won all 24 elective seats.

In the period leading to independence swaziland gradually developed a dual government structure. The first part was the formal western-style parliamentary democracy (ended by the king in 1973). The long extant second part was the Swazi national council, dominated by the king. In theory the council only dealt with tribal matters, but it has always had a strong voice in modern governmental affairs.

Having solidified its political base, INM incorporated many demands of the more radical parties, especially that of immediate independence. In 1966, the U.K. Government agreed to discuss a new constitution. A constitutional committee agreed on a constitutional monarchy for Swaziland, with self-government to follow parliamentary elections in 1967. Swaziland became independent on September 6, 1968. Swaziland's post-independence elections were held in May 1972. The INM received close to 75% of the vote. The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) received slightly more than 20% of the vote, which gained the party three seats in parliament.

In response to the NNLC's showing, King Sobhuza repealed the 1968 constitution on April 12, 1973 and dissolved parliament. He assumed all powers of government and prohibited all political activities and trade unions from operating. He justified his actions as having removed alien and divisive political practices incompatible with the Swazi way of life.

Once Sobhuza swept away the western-style government structure, the national council became the de facto ruling body of Swaziland. While the fact of a dual government structure dominated by traditionalist forces had long been recognized, the methods by which the traditionalists maintained their power had been difficult for outsiders and even most swazis to define. The key had been King Sobhuza.

Using his assured power base as the absolute tribal monarch in a one-tribe country, Sobhuza suspended the constitution and parliament in 1973 after his party lost three of the 24 parliamentary seats. This was followed by a series of decrees giving the king-in-council virtual dictatorial powers. Trade unions and the national student organization were suppressed, a draconian detention law was enacted, and a new citizenship law, sufficiently vague to deprive virtually anyone of swazi citizenship, was put into force.

Other sections of the modern sector that had generally backed the opposition party, such as the police, bureaucracy, teachers, and blue-collar workers, were brought under informal but increasing traditionalist control. This situation led to serious, potentially revolutionary tensions just below the surface of Swaziland society.

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 heir to the Swazi throne. Real power at this time was concentrated in the Liqoqo, a supreme traditional advisory body that claimed to give binding advice to the Queen Regent. In October 1985, Queen Regent Ntombi demonstrated her power by dismissing the leading figures of the Liqoqo. Prince Makhosetive returned from school in England to ascend to the throne and help end the continuing internal disputes. He was enthroned as Mswati III on April 25, 1986. Shortly afterwards he abolished the Liqoqo. In November 1987, a new parliament was elected and a new cabinet appointed.

In 1988 and 1989, an underground political party, the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) criticized the King and his government, calling for democratic reforms. In response to this political threat and to growing popular calls for greater accountability within government, the King and the Prime Minister initiated an ongoing national debate on the constitutional and political future of Swaziland. This debate produced a handful of political reforms, approved by the King, including direct and indirect voting in the 1993 national elections.

Join the mailing list

Unconventional Threat podcast - Threats Foreign and Domestic: 'In Episode One of Unconventional Threat, we identify and examine a range of threats, both foreign and domestic, that are endangering the integrity of our democracy'

Page last modified: 03-05-2017 19:11:13 ZULU