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According to tradition, the original followers of the present Dlamini royal house of the 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 Ngwane, as they then called themselves, settled in northern Zululand in about 1750. Unable to match growing Zulu strength, the Ngwane moved the center of their kingdom northward in the 1810s and 1820s. Under King Sobhuza I they established themselves in the heartland of modern Swaziland, conquering and incorporating many long-established independent chiefdoms, whose descendants also make up much of the modern Swazi nation.

The Dlamini aristocracy consolidated their hold under several able leaders. The most important was Mswati II, from whom the Swazi derive their name. Under his leadership from the 1840s to 1865, the Swazi expanded their territory to the north and west, and stabilized the southern frontier with the Zulu.

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British Colonialism

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, Transvaal Boers, settled in the country. Following Mswati's death, the Swazis reached agreements with British and South African Republic authorities over a range of issues, including independence, claims on resources by Europeans, administrative authority, and security, though the white parties later reneged on those agreements. Over Swazi royal protest, the South African Republic with British concurrence established incomplete colonial rule over the Swaziland from 1894 to 1899, when they withdrew their administration with the start of the Anglo-Boer War. In 1902 British forces entered the territory, proclaiming British overrule and jurisdiction in 1903, initially as part of the Transvaal. In 1906 Swaziland was separated administratively when the Transvaal Colony was granted responsible government.

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 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. In 1944, the high commissioner both reconstituted the basis and role of the EAC, and, over Swazi royal objections, issued a Native Authorities Proclamation constituting the paramount chief, as the British called the king, as 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.

In 1921, after more than 20 years of regency headed by Queen Regent Labotsibeni, Sobhuza II became Ngenyama (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 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. The history of the language spoken in Swaziland (siSwati) comes from the many nguni languages however it is well known than siSwati gave birth to the Zulu language which is now commonly spoken in the Republic Of South Africa.

Independence

Having solidified its political base, 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 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 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.

Recent history

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.

See also

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