APRIL 1993
Official Name:  Kingdom of Swaziland



Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Swazi(s).  
Population (1992 est.):  860,000.  Annual growth rate (1991 est.):  
3.4%.  Ethnic groups:  The great majority is Swazi, the remainder Zulu 
and non-African.  
Religions:  Christian and indigenous beliefs.  Languages:  English and 
SiSwati (both official).  
Education: Years compulsory--none.  Attendance--99% primary school; 44% 
secondary school.  Literacy--64%.  
Health:  Infant mortality rate--98/1,000.  Life expectancy--53 yrs. 
males; 60 yrs. females.  
Work force (12% of population):  Agriculture and forestry--30%.  
Financial and social services--26%.  Mining and manufacturing--18%.  
Transport and communications--8%. Construction--7%.


Area:  17,363 sq. km. (6,704 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than New Jersey.  
Cities:  Capital--Mbabane (pop. 55,000 est.).  Principal commercial 
city--Manzini (pop. 66,000 est.).  
Terrain:  Mountainous, plateau.  
Climate:  Near-temperate, subtropical, semi-arid.


Type:  Monarchy.  Independence:  September 6, 1968. 
Constitution:  No written constitution in effect.
Branches:  Executive--Monarch (chief of state), prime minister (head of 
government), cabinet.  Legislative--parliament consisting of House of 
Assembly (50 members) and Senate (20 members).  Judicial--Court of 
Appeals, high court, subordinate and traditional courts.
Administrative subdivisions:  4 regions, 4 municipal governments, and 40 
Tinkhundla (traditional administrative units).
Political parties:  None permitted by law.  Suffrage:  Universal.

Flag:  Five horizontal stripes--blue, yellow, crimson, yellow, blue--
with shield, two spears, and staff centered on wide crimson band.


GDP (1990 est.):  $704 million.  Real growth rate (1991):  7%.  Per 
capita income (1990):  $900.
Natural resources:  Asbestos, coal, diamonds, timber, hydroelectric 
power, clay.
Agriculture (20% of GDP):  Products--sugar cane,  corn, citrus fruit, 
livestock, wood, pineapple, cotton, tobacco.  Cultivated land--16% 
(crops plus commercial forests).  
Manufacturing (18% of GNP):  Types--sugar refining, light manufactured 
goods, woodpulp, textiles, ginned cotton, processed foods, beverages, 
consumer goods.
Trade (1991 est.):  Exports--$575 million:  sugar, soft drink 
concentrate, woodpulp, wood products, manufactures, canned fruit, 
asbestos, citrus, vegetables, meat and meat products.  Major markets--
South Africa, Canada, EEC, US.  Imports (1991 est.)--$637 million:  
motor vehicles, heavy machinery, fuel and lubricants, foodstuffs, 
clothing.  Major suppliers--South Africa, UK, Japan, Germany.
Official exchange rate: 1 lilangeni (pl. emalangeni)= 1 South African 
rand; 3.1 emalangeni=US$1 (1992 average).  (###)


Traditionally, Swazis have been subsistence farmers and herders; a 
number are now working in the growing formal economy and in government.  
Some work in mines in South Africa.

Christianity in Swaziland is sometimes mixed with traditional beliefs 
and practices.  Most Swazis ascribe a special spiritual role to the 

The country's official languages are SiSwati (an Nguni language related 
to Zulu) and English.  Government and commercial business is conducted 
mainly in English.

According to tradition, the people of the present Swazi nation migrated 
south before the 16th century to 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 early 1800s and established themselves in the area of 
modern 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.

Swazi 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.  During Mswati's reign, 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.  The Swazi interests were administered from 
1894 to 1903 by South Africans.  In 1903, the British assumed control.

In 1921, Swaziland established its first legislative body--an advisory 
council of elected white representatives mandated to advise the British 
High Commissioner on non-Swazi affairs.  In 1944, the high commissioner 
conceded that the council had 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 1921, after more than 20 years of rule by Queen Regent Labotsibeni, 
Sobhuza II became Ngwenyama (the lion) or head of the Swazi nation.  

In the early years of colonial rule, the British 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 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 and his council, formed the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM), a 
political group that capitalized on its close identification with the 
traditional Swazi way of life.  Responding to pressures for political 
reform, 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.

Having solidified its political base, 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 about 75% of the vote.  The Ngwane National Liberatory 
Congress (NNLC) received slightly more than 20% of the vote and 3 seats 
in Parliament.

In response to the NNLC votes, King Sobhuza repealed the 1968 
constitution on April 12, 1973, and dissolved parliament. He assumed all 
powers of government and prohibited all political parties 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 Sobhuza died in August 1982, and Queen Regent Dzeliwe assumed the 
duties of Head of State.  In 1983, an internal dispute led to the 
replacement of the prime minister and the eventual replacement of 
Dzeliwe by a new Queen Regent Ntombi. Ntombi's son, Prince Makhosetive, 
was named heir to the Swazi throne.  Real power at this time was 
concentrated in the Liqoqo, a traditional advisory body which 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 
the throne and help end the continuing internal disputes.

He was enthroned as Mswati III in April 1986.  Shortly afterward, he 
abolished the Liqoqo.  In November 1987, a new parliament was elected 
and a new cabinet appointed.  The present Prime Minister, appointed in 
1989, is Obed Dlamini, a former trade unionist.

In 1988 and 1989, an underground political party, the People's United 
Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) emerged and clandestinely criticized the 
King and the government, calling for democratic reforms.  In response to 
this political threat and to growing popular calls for greater 
accountablity in government, the King and the Prime Minister , in 1990, 
initiated an ongoing national debate on the constitutional and political 
future of Swaziland.

This debate produced a number of political reforms, approved by the 
King, including direct and secret election of legislative 
representatives.  These reforms, an incremental advance for democracy in 
Swaziland, were incorporated into preparations for national elections 
scheduled for June/July 1993.


According to Swazi law and custom, the monarch holds supreme executive, 
legislative, and judicial power.  In general practice, the monarch's 
power is delegated through a dualistic system:  modern, statutory 
bodies, like the cabinet, and less formal, traditional governmental 
structures.  At present, parliament consists of a 50-member House of 
Assembly (40 chosen through indirect election and 10 appointed by the 
King) and a 20-member Senate (10 elected by the House of Assembly and 10 
appointed by the King).  Legislation passed by the parliament must be 
approved by the King.  Executive authority is exercised by a royally 
appointed prime minister (head of government) and cabinet.

For local administration, Swaziland is divided into four regions, the 
administrators of which are appointed by the King.  Manzini, Mbabane, 
and two other towns have municipal governments.  Parallel to this 
statutory government structure is a traditional system consisting of the 
King and his traditional advisers, traditional courts, and 40 Tinkhundla 
(subregional districts in which the traditional chiefs are grouped).

In 1992, the King appointed a committee to represent a cross-section of 
Swazi political opinion, including comments from the public at large.  
The committee recommended (and the King approved) a number of 
significant reforms of the electoral process (to include direct election 
of parliament in mid-1993), the Tinkhundla system, and the national 
government.  Several measures remain in force, however, that could 
stifle further political liberalization.  Chief among them are the 
arbitrary detention powers of the government and the ban on political 

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--King Mswati III 
Prime Minister--Obed M. Dlamini 
Foreign Affairs--George Mamba 
Ambassador to the United States--Absalom Vusani Mamba
Ambassador to the United Nations--Dr. Timothy Dlamini

Swaziland maintains an embassy in the US at Suite 441, Van Ness Center, 
4301 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (202-362-6683).  
Swaziland's UN Mission is at 866 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017 (212 371-


Swaziland ranks among the more prosperous countries in Africa.  Most of 
the high-level economic activity is in the hands of non-Africans, but 
ethnic Swazis are becoming more active small entrepreneurs and are 
moving into middle-management positions.  Although about 70% of Swazis 
live in rural areas, nearly every homestead has a wage earner.  Despite 
several years of strong economic growth, however, the economy has been 
unable to create jobs at the same pace that new job seekers enter the 
market. This is due in large measure to the country's high 3.4% 
population growth rate, which also strains the country's natural 
heritage and its ability to provide adequate social services, such as 
health care and education.

About 57% of Swazi territory is held by the Crown in trust for the Swazi 
nation.  The balance is privately owned, much of it by foreigners.  The 
question of land use and ownership remains a sensitive one.

For Swazis living on rural homesteads, the principal occupation is 
subsistence farming (principally maize) and livestock herding.  Cash 
crops such as cotton are also grown. Culturally, cattle are important 
symbols of wealth and status, but they are being used increasingly for 
milk, meat, and profit.

Swaziland enjoys well-developed road links with South Africa.  It also 
has railroads running east to west and north to south.  The older east-
west link, called the Goba Line, makes it possible to export bulk goods 
from Swaziland through the port of Maputo in Mozambique.  Until 
recently, most of Swaziland's exports were shipped through this port.  
Conflict in Mozambique over the past few years has diverted many Swazi 
exports to ports in South Africa.  A north-south rail link, completed in 
1986, provides a connection between the eastern Transvaal rail network 
and the South African ports of Richard's Bay and Durban.

The sugar industry, based solely on irrigated cane, is Swaziland's 
leading export earner and private-sector employer.  Soft-drink 
concentrate (a US investment) is the country's second largest export 
earner, followed by woodpulp and lumber from cultivated pine forests.  
Pineapple, citrus fruit, and cotton are other important agricultural 

Swaziland currently mines asbestos, coal, and diamonds, almost all for 
export.  There is also a quarry industry for domestic construction.  
Mining typically contributes just under 3% to Swaziland's GDP each year.

Recently, a number of industrial firms have located at the industrial 
estate at Matsapha, near Manzini.  In addition to processed agricultural 
and forestry products, the fast-growing industrial sector at Matsapha 
also produces garments, textiles, and a surprising variety of light 
manufactures.  The Swaziland Industrial Development Corporation (SIDC) 
has assisted in bringing many of these industries to the country.  
Government programs encourage Swazi entrepreneurs to run small and 
medium-sized firms.  Tourism is also important, attracting more than 
270,000 visitors annually.  

From the mid-1980s onward, foreign investment in the manufacturing 
center has boosted economic growth rates significantly.  Moreover, since 
mid-1985, the depressed value of the currency has increased the 
competitiveness of Swazi exports and moderated the growth of imports, 
generating trade surpluses.  The country has run small trade deficits 
for the past 3 years, however.  South Africa and the European Community 
are major customers for Swazi exports, and the US is a significant 
market for Swazi sugar, with purchases of 32,500 metric tons in 1991.

Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, and the Republic of South Africa 
form the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), in which import duties 
apply uniformly to member countries. Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, and 
South Africa are also joined in the Common Monetary Area (CMA), in which 
the free transfer and unrestricted use of funds are permitted.  
Swaziland issued its own currency, the lilangeni (emalangeni in the 
plural) in September 1974.  The lilangeni, while not tied to the rand, 
at present trades at par with it.


Swaziland is a member of the UN and the Organization of African Unity.  
More than 40 countries have accredited ambassadors to the Kingdom, 
although only 6 have resident representatives.  Swaziland maintains 
diplomatic missions in Brussels (EEC), London, Denmark, Seoul, Ottawa, 
Maputo, Nairobi, New York (UN), and Washington, DC.

Because of its location, Swaziland has close economic ties with South 
Africa; 15-20,000 Swazis work there in mines, industries, and farms.  
Roughly 90% of Swaziland's imports either originate in or transit 
through South Africa.  Although diplomatic representatives have not been 
exchanged, a South African Trade Commissioner is resident in Mbabane.


The United States seeks to maintain and strengthen the good bilateral 
relations that have existed since the Kingdom of Swaziland became 
independent in 1968.  US policy there stresses continued economic and 
political development.

In the past, the US has assisted Swaziland in institutional and human 
resource development, agricultural development, and the expansion of the 
rural health and rural water systems. Presently, it continues to focus 
on education and job-training but has expanded into other important 
areas, such as private sector development, family planning, and the 
development of a more job-relevant primary school curriculum.  The US 
brings an average of 22 Swazi students and professionals to the US each 
year, from both the private and public sectors, primarily for master's 
and doctorate degrees.  Some 70 Peace Corps volunteers work in 
Swaziland, principally as secondary school science and math teachers.

Principal US Officials
Ambassador--Stephen H. Rogers 
Deputy Chief of Mission--Philip M. Jones 
Director, AID Mission--Valerie Dickson-Horton 
Director, Peace Corps--James Kelley

The US embassy in Swaziland is in the Central Bank Building, Warner 
Street, PO Box 199, Mbabane.  (###)

Travel Notes
Customs:  US citizens do not need visas to enter Swaziland.

Climate:  Swaziland's climate is moderate, similar to that of the middle 
Atlantic states but drier and with the seasons reversed.

Health:  Adequate medical care is available in Swaziland for routine 
illnesses.  Serious illnesses and accidents must be treated in South 
Africa or elsewhere.  Tapwater should be boiled or filtered.  The 
climate is basically healthful.  Travelers should consult most recent 

Telecommunications:  International and local telephone and telegraph 
services are available.  Mbabane is seven time zones ahead of eastern 
standard time.

Transportation:  Regular air service to and from Matsapha Airport, near 
Mbabane and Manzini, links Swaziland with major international routes.  
Taxis and rental cars are available at the airport and in Mbabane.  

Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau of Public 
Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- Washington, DC -- April 
1993 -- Editor:  Anita M. Stockman

Department of State Publication 8174
Background Notes Series -- This material is in the public domain and may 
be reprinted without permission; citation of this source is appreciated.

For sale by the Superindendent of Documents, US Government Printing 
Office, Washington , DC 20402. 


Return to Africa Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage