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Kingdom of Swaziland
Umbuso weSwatini
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Siyinqaba"  (SiSwati)
"We are a fortress"

"We are a mystery/riddle" "We hide ourselves away"
AnthemNkulunkulu Mnikati wetibusiso temaSwati
Capital Lobamba (royal and legislative)
Mbabane (administrative; coordinates below)
26°19′S 31°8′E / 26.317°S 31.133°E / -26.317; 31.133
Largest city Mbabane
Official language(s) English, SiSwati
Demonym Swazi
Government Absolute Monarchy
 -  King Mswati III
 -  Indlovukazi Queen Ntombi
 -  Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini
 -  Deputy Prime Minister Themba N. Masuku
 -  from the United Kingdom 6 September 1968 
 -  Total 17,364 km2 (157th)
6,704 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.9
 -  2009 estimate 1,185,000[1] (154th)
 -  2007 census 1,018,449 
 -  Density 68.2/km2 (135th)
176.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $5.878 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $5,749[2] 
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $2.840 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $2,778[2] 
Gini (1994) 60.9 (high
HDI (2007) 0.547 (medium) (141st)
Currency Lilangeni (SZL)
Time zone (UTC+2)
Drives on the left
Internet TLD .sz
Calling code 268
Estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.

The Kingdom of Swaziland (Umbuso weSwatini), sometimes called Ngwane, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique. The nation, as well as its people, are named after the 19th century king Mswati II.

Swaziland is a small country, no more than 200 km north to south and 130 km east to west. The western half is mountainous, descending to a lowveld region to the east. The eastern border with Mozambique and South Africa is dominated by the escarpment of the Lebombo Mountains. The climate is temperate in the west, but may reach 40 degrees in summer in the lowveld. Rainfall occurs mainly in the summer and may reach 2 m in the west.

The area that Swaziland now covers has been continuously inhabited since prehistory. Today, the population is primarily ethnic Swazis whose language is siSwati, though English is spoken as a second language. The Swazi people descend from the southern Bantu who migrated from Central Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Anglo Boer war saw Britain make Swaziland a protectorate under its direct control. Swaziland gained independence in 1968. Swaziland is a member of the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, and the Commonwealth of Nations. The head of state is the king, who appoints the prime minister and a small number of representatives for both chambers of parliament. Elections are held every five years to determine the majority of the representatives. A new constitution was adopted in 2005.

Swaziland's economy is dominated by the service industry, manufacturing and agriculture. Some 75% of the population are employed in subsistence farming, and 60% of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day.[3] Swaziland's main trading partner is South Africa, and its currency is pegged to the South African rand. Swaziland's economic growth and societal integrity is highly endangered by its disastrous HIV epidemic, to an extent where the United Nations Development Program has written that if it continues unabated, the "longer term existence of Swaziland as a country will be seriously threatened."[4] The infection rate in the country is unprecedented and the highest in the world at 26.1% of adults[5] and over 50% of adults in their 20s.[4]



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.[6]

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.


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.

Embassy of Swaziland in Washington, D.C.

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.

Administrative divisions

Administrative divisions of Swaziland
1 - Hhohho
2 - Lubombo
3 - Manzini
4 - Shiselweni

Swaziland is divided into four districts:

Each district is further divided into tinkhundla. There are 55 tinkhundla in Swaziland and each elects one representative to the House of Assembly of Swaziland.



Swaziland lies across a geological fault which runs from the Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho, north through the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, forms the Great Rift Valley of Kenya and, eventually, peters out in present-day Turkey.

Landscape in Swaziland.

A small, land-locked Kingdom, Swaziland is bordered in the North, West and South by the Republic of South Africa and by Mozambique in the East. Although Swaziland has a land area of only 17,364 km2, roughly the size of Wales or the American State of New Jersey, it contains four separate geographical regions. These run from North to South and are determined by altitude.

Swaziland is located at approximately 26o49'S, 31o38'E.[7] Swaziland also offers a wide variety of landscapes, from the mountains along the Mozambican border to savannas in the east and rain forest in the northwest. Several rivers flow through the country, such as the Great Usuthu River.

Along the eastern border with Mozambique is the Lubombo, a mountain ridge, at an altitude of around 600 meters. The mountains are broken by the gorges of three rivers, the Ngwavuma, the Usutu and the Mbuluzi. This is cattle ranching country.

The western border of the country, with an average altitude of 1200 meters, lies on the edge of an escarpment. Between the mountains rivers rush through deep gorges making this a most scenic region. Mbabane, the capital, is located on the Highveld.

The Middleveld, lying at an average 700 meters above sea level is the most densely populated region of Swaziland with a lower rainfall than the mountains. Manzini, the principal commercial and industrial city, is situated in the Middleveld.

The Lowveld of Swaziland, at around 250 meters, is less populated than other areas and presents a typical African bush country of thorn trees and grasslands. Development of the region was inhibited, in early days, by the scourge of malaria.


The seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere with December being mid-summer and June mid-winter. Generally speaking, rain falls mostly during the summer months, often in the form of thunderstorms. Winter is the dry season. Annual rainfall is highest on the Highveld in the West, between 1000 and 2000 mm depending on the year. The further East, the less rain, with the Lowveld recording 500 to 900 mm per annum. Variations in temperature are also related to the altitude of the different regions. The Highveld temperature is temperate and, seldom, uncomfortably hot while the Lowveld may record temperatures around 40 degrees in summer.

The average temperatures at Mbabane, according to seasons:

Spring September – October 18 degrees Celsius
Summer November – March 20 degrees Celsius
Autumn April – May 17 degrees Celsius
Winter June – August 13 degrees Celsius


Swaziland ’s economy is fairly diversified, with agriculture, forestry and mining accounting for about 13% of GDP, manufacturing (textiles and sugar-related processing) representing 37% of GDP and services – with government services in the lead – constituting 50% 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%—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%, 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% of GDP and 55% 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% 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% in 2006.

The Swazi economy is very closely linked to the South African economy, from which it receives over 90% of its imports and to which it sends about 70% 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 ActAGOA – 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% between 2000 and 2005 and sugar exports increasing by more than 50% 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 is critically affected by the HIV and AIDS pandemic, which is now an existential threat to its society. As reported in the 2009 CIA World Factbook, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world (26% of all adults; more in other reports) and also the lowest life expectancy at 32 years, which is 6 years lower than the next lowest average of Angola. From another perspective, the last available World Health Organization data in 2002 shows that 61% of all deaths in the country were caused by HIV/AIDS.[8] With a record crude death rate of 30 per 1000, this means that about 2% of the Swazi population dies from HIV every year. Chronic illnesses that are the most prolific causes of death in the developed world accounting only for a minute fraction of deaths in Swaziland; for example, heart disease, strokes, and cancer cause fewer than 5% of deaths in Swaziland in total, compared to 55% of all deaths yearly in the US.[9]

In 2004, Swaziland acknowledged for the first time that it suffered an AIDS crisis, with 38.8% of tested pregnant women infected with HIV (see AIDS in Africa). Prime Minister Themba Dlamini declared a humanitarian crisis due to the combined effect of drought, land degradation, increased poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Life expectancy has fallen from 61 years in 2000, to 32 years in 2009.[10] Tuberculosis is also a significant problem, with an 18% mortality rate. Many patients have a multi-drug resistant strain, and 83% are co-infected with HIV.[11]

Public expenditure was at 4% of the GDP of the country, whereas private expenditure was at 2.3%.[12] There were 16 physicians per 100,000 persons in the early 2000s.[12] Infant mortality was at 110 per 1,000 in 2005,[12] with the WHO showing that 47% of all deaths under 5 are caused by HIV/AIDS.[8]


Swazi people dancing in a cultural village show.

The principle Swazi social unit is the homestead, a traditional beehive hut thatched with dry grass. In a polygamous homestead, each wife has her own hut and yard surrounded by reed fences. There are three structures for sleeping, cooking, and storage (brewing beer). In larger homesteads there are also structures used as bachelors' quarters and guest accommodation.

Central to the traditional homestead is the cattle byre, a circular area enclosed by large logs interspaced with branches. The cattle byre has 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, advising them on 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, a graduation ceremony takes place where all the local sangoma come together for feasting and dancing. The diviner is consulted for various reasons, such 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 translated 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. The climax of the event is 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 the 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 preserve girls' chastity, provide tribute labour for the Queen mother, and to encourage 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.

Today's Reed Dance is not an ancient ceremony, but developed out of the old "umchwasho" custom. In "umchwasho", 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. The country was under the chastity rite of "umchwasho" until 19 August 2005.

Traditional homes in Swaziland.


Education in Swaziland is neither free nor compulsory.[13] In 1996, the net primary school enrollment rate was 90.8%, with gender parity at the primary level.[13] In 1998, 80.5% of children reached grade five.[13] The University of Swaziland provides higher education.


The majority of Swaziland's population is ethnically Swazi, mixed with a small number of Zulu and White Africans, mostly people of British and Afrikaner descent. Traditionally Swazi have been subsistence farmers and herders, but most now mix such activities with work in the growing urban formal economy and in government. Some Swazi work in the mines in South Africa.

Swaziland also received Portuguese settlers and African refugees from Mozambique. Christianity in Swaziland is sometimes mixed with traditional beliefs and practices. Many traditionalists believe that most Swazi ascribe a special spiritual role to the monarch. Residents of Swaziland have the lowest documented life expectancy in the world at 31.88 years, less than half the world average of 69.4.[14]


SiSwati[15] (also known as Swati, Swazi or Seswati) 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.

About 76,000 people in the country speak Zulu.[16] 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.


The most common religion in Swaziland is Christianity which totals 82.70% of the total population, in which various Protestant and indigenous African churches, including African Zionist, constitute the majority of the Christians, followed closely by Roman Catholicism. There are also non-Christian religions practiced in the country such as Islam (0.95%), the Bahá'í Faith (0.5%), and Hinduism (0.15%).[17]

See also


  1. ^ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009) (PDF). World Population Prospects, Table A.1. 2008 revision. United Nations. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Swaziland". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  3. ^ "UNDP: Human development indices - Table 3: Human and income poverty (Population living below national poverty line (2000-2007))". United Nations Development Programme. 28 November 2008. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "Country programme outline for Swaziland, 2006-2010". United Nations Development Program. Retrieved November 22, 2009. 
  5. ^ "October 2008 Kaiser Family Foundation HIV/AIDS Policy Fact Sheet". Kaiser Family Foundation. October 2008. Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  6. ^ Jacana Lodge. "A Short History of the Kingdom of Swaziland". Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  7. ^, Inc. "Map of Swaziland". Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "Swaziland, Mortality Country Fact Sheet 2006". WHO. Retrieved November 22, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Causes of death in US, 2006". CDC. Retrieved November 22, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Swaziland: A culture that encourages HIV/AIDS". Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). 15 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  11. ^ "Swaziland: An MSF Doctors Explains HIV-TB Co-Infection". USA: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. October 28, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  12. ^ a b c
  13. ^ a b c "Swaziland" "2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor". Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor. 2002. "Swaziland". Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  14. ^ CIA. "The World Factbook". Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  15. ^ U.S. Department of State. "Background Note:Swaziland". Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  16. ^ M. Paul Lewis (2009). "Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition". Retrieved 29 December 2009. 
  17. ^ Religious Intelligence. "Country Profile: Swaziland (Kingdom of Swaziland)". Retrieved 29 December 2009. 

Further reading

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Africa : Southern Africa : Swaziland
Quick Facts
Capital Mbabane; note - Lobamba is the royal and legislative capital
Government Monarchy; independent member of Commonwealth
Currency Lilangeni (SZL), plural Emalangeni
Area total: 17,363 km2
water: 160 km2
land: 17,203 km2
Population 1,123,605
Language English (official, government business conducted in English), siSwati (official)
Religion Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 10%, Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish and other 30%
Calling Code +268
Internet TLD .sz
Time Zone UTC +2

Swaziland is a country in Southern Africa, land locked by South Africa in its west and Mozambique in the east. Swaziland's monarchy is one of the oldest in Africa.


Swaziland is divided into four districts:

  • Hhohho (northwest)
  • Lubombo (east)
  • Manzini (central-west)
  • Shiselweni (south)


Swaziland, one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, is one of the the smallest countries in Africa and has a well-earned reputation for friendliness in Southern Africa. It also contains several large game parks and reserves, which are sponsored by the government and are popular tourist destinations.

Compared to other countries in the region, Swaziland is known for its civility and peacefulness, despite similar problems with poverty and one of the world's worst AIDS crises. As of November 2008 the total reported percentage of those with HIV was listed as 30%; this, of course, does not include those who have not yet been tested. The AIDS epidemic has broken up the traditional extended family unit, leaving many young children orphaned and fighting for survival.

Rumors abound that much of Swaziland's economy is based on the farming of marijuana, or dagga, as it is locally known.

The terminal of Matsapha Airport.
The terminal of Matsapha Airport.

By plane

The only International airport of Swaziland is Matsapha Airport which lies about 1km outside of Manzini. Airlink Swaziland provides flights from Johannesburg (South Africa). There is also a small car rental station at the airport and a snack shop. A hotspot has recently been installed, allowing users with WiFi and Wireless LAN equipped computers or PDA’s to access the internet from anywhere in the building free of charge.

By bus

Most public transport bus services arrive in Mbabane or Manzini. Smaller bus lines, or minibuses generally provide service to Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town in South Africa as well as Maputo in Mozambique.

Larger buses usually travel within the country and some stop at border crossings, where passengers must connect with an onward journey, unless a specific group booking is done to hire a big bus.

For scheduled road transport there is the Swaziland based siyeSwatini TransMagnific, which provides transport to and from Swaziland daily. Stops include the Johannesburg airport. The TransMagnific mini-buses are customised for added comfort and safety, unlike the public transport. However, they require that bookings and payments be done at least a day prior to travel so that your meal can be ordered and the selection for the movie can be determined for the +-4hour voyage.

The South African Baz Bus, an independent line somewhat popular among backpackers, also makes regular stops via South Africa to various hostels and hotels in Swaziland. When traveling into and out of South Africa to and from Swaziland, this is the safest option. All mini-buses into South Africa go directly to Johannesburg bus stations, which are dangerous.

Map of Swaziland
Map of Swaziland

Most travel in Swaziland is by either car or minibus.

Minibuses, called kombis, are prevalent, but can be confusing. Like similar modes of travel around the world such as the jitney, matatu or dolmus, these are small vans that accumulate as many travelers as possible while making their way along a general direction. In Swaziland, these vans are often driven by very young men, and most have assistants who estimate and collect fares, ask your destination, and make change.

As of Jan. 2008, fares typically range from 5R for trips around 5 min to 10R for around 30 min to 30R for longer trips. It is very very unlikely to be over-charged.

Be prepared for crowded seats, loud radios, and sometimes reckless driving. The larger Sprinter vans are a safer and faster choice if available.

Minibuses can usually be flagged down along main roads. Larger towns usually serve as minibus hubs or connections. Major hubs include Manzini, Mbabane, Pigg's Peak, Nhlangano, Siteki, and Big Bend. Finding the correct bus can be tricky, so discreetly ask if you can't figure it out. The kombis typically have destinations written on the front bumpers. At a bus station (or bus rank), young men will yell out the destinations and are helpful in guiding you to the correct kombi, however, always double check with the passengers. You will be advised to watch your belongings, as such places, like all bus terminals worldwide, have disproportionally higher crime rates. Stay away from these bus ranks at night.

Travel is very difficult after dark. The only option is by taxi. If staying around Mbabane or Manzini, keep a couple cab driver's phone numbers on hand. Taxi drivers may overcharge.


English is the official language of business. It is advisable that travellers learn a little of the local language, SiSwati (also known as Swazi) which, in rural areas, is spoken almost exclusively.


The currency of Swaziland, the lilangeni (plural: "emalangeni"), is tied to the South African rand at 1:1. Shops in Swaziland often accept and make change for both currencies indiscriminately. This is not the case in South Africa, however, so if you are planning to visit South Africa also, you may prefer to request rand in exchange for emalangeni at banks in Mbabane or Manzini: proof of identity is required. It is impossible to exchange your emalangeni at Johannesburg Airport, as well as in the UK. All Swazi vendors will take Rand, but no South African vendors will take emalangeni.

Note that when traveling on the kombis in Swaziland, the operators will NOT take Rand coins.


Many Western foods are available in Swazi grocery stores, but traditional foods are still common, as is modern convenient food based on traditional ingredients.

Maize-based dishes are popular, and mealie or pap (similar to porridge) is a staple. Beans, groundnuts, pumpkin, avocado and sour milk are also common ingredients. Dried and cooked local meats, such as antelope (often called 'wild meat' by locals), are widely available at tourist restaurants.

"Chicken dust" is a cheap local bbq meal; basically chicken grilled in the open served with a salad and mealie. It is popular both with locals and absolutely delicious. Of course, take appropriate precautions as it is a street vendor food.

Sweet breads, vegetables and fruits are often available from roadside merchants. If you're craving pasta, imported olive oil, Nestle chocolate, Herbal Essences and Carlsberg, head over to the Hub, at Manzini: a huge Spar with everything you could need (at an appropriately inflated price). There are several coffee-shops and restaurants around the Hub, also: be aware that the lavatories are located separately, down the stairs, and you have to pay to use them. Manzini's bustling markets and local shops yield all kinds of interesting foodstuffs, along with the ubiquitous KFC.

There are some superb restaurants in Swaziland; many are be found in Ezulwini:

  • The Calabash Continental Restaurant, (Upper end of Ezulwini Valley), (+268) 416 1187, [1]. 11.00-23.00. Excellent German and Swiss cuisine. They do wonderful things with fish!  edit
  • The Boma Restaurant, Timbali Lodge (Upper Ezulwini Valley), (+268) 416 1156, [2]. 11.00-23.00. New, popular, 'Africa-Chic' destination.  edit
  • The Great Taipei, Gables Shopping Centre, Ezulwini, (+268) 416 2300. 12.00-23.00. Swaziland's favourite Chinese restaurant. Reasonably priced.  edit


Marula is locally brewed during the marula season. It may be difficult to find; ask locals as it is home-brewed.

There is a vibrant nightlife in Swaziland ranging from traditional dances to bars and nightclubs. If you're staying in Ezulwini, there are four bars at the Royal Swazi hotel; why not check out the Why Not nightclub too? If you're in the Malkerns area, the House on Fire is extremely popular: local art, local and national DJs, an open-air setting and live acts.


Swaziland is a small country and it is easy to go anywhere in the country during one day. If you're watching the pennies, head to Veki's Guesthouse or Grifter's Backpackers in Mbabane, which costs around 120R per night for a bunk. If you want to push the boat out, book a room at the Mountain Inn which has outstanding accommodation, facilities and leisure opportunities.

The most sought-after hotels in Swaziland tend to be located in Ezulwini Valley between the two major cities, Mbabane and Manzini. (Don't forget to pick up beautiful local crafts from the roadside stalls on the way.) With four bars, a restaurant, a casino, golf, swimming, tennis and 411 rooms and suites, the Royal Sun Swazi epitomises luxury. The Royal Villas, also found in Ezulwini, spread 56 rooms across 14 villas and are extremely luxurious, offering excellent food, atmosphere and leisure facilities. The Ezulwini sun offers excellent facilities, also, at mid-range prices.

And, if you're heading down towards the Mozambique border, you'll find comfortable, well-appointed country clubs at Manananga, Mhlume and Simunye.

Again, out in the country, a wonderful place to stay one or more nights is Phophonyane Falls [3]. It is situated in the north-east, next to the Phophonyane waterfalls and offers great hiking trails. Best is to sleep in comfortable tents, next to the river. The Shewula Mountain Camp, Swaziland's first community-owned camp, is perched high in the Lobombo mountains with stunning views across game reserves; on clear days the Mozambique capital, Maputo is clearly visible. Guests stay in traditional rondavels, round thatched huts. The Camp is an eco-tourism initiative designed to help the local community and the wider environment.


Swaziland is named for Mswati II, who became king in 1839. The royal lineage can be traced back to the Dlamini clan. The population is divided roughly between Nguni, Sotho and Tsonga, the remainder being 3% white. The current king is Mswati III, son of Sobuza II who had about seventy wives. He rules jointly with Indlovukazi, the Queen Mother. The primary symbol of Swaziland is not what the West would typically associate with nationhood - flags or monuments - but the king himself. The relationship between king and people is demonstrated through the incwala, a ceremony lasting several weeks which focuses on traditional rule, unity of the state, primacy of agriculture, sacredness of land, fertility and potency. Mswati's relationship with his people has been made even more unique through the introduction of chastity decrees for the under-18s to combat the rise of AIDS. However, Mswati III broke the rule when he married a 17-year-old girl, his thirteenth wife, in 2005. Mswati III has come under further criticism for attempting to purchase a private plane during a period of persistent drought and famine. Dissent grew so vociferous that the media was banned from making disparaging remarks about the monarchy, and the plane in particular. In the third year of drought, further plans to build luxury palaces for his wives whilst his people starved led to mass criticism. In 2005, Mswati III signed the country's first constitution though, in effect, nothing has changed: opposition parties remain banned, and the King remains absolute monarch.

Swaziland's main exports are sugar, grown on plantations throughout Swaziland, soft drink concentrates, cotton, maize, tobacco, rice and wood pulp. Demand for asbestos, once a major export, has fallen greatly due to health risks associated with the product. The land is badly overgrazed and overfarmed. This is particularly problematic as Swaziland suffers from persistent droughts. Unemployment hovers at around 25%. This figure is contributed to by inability to work as a result of AIDS.

Swazis build their huts depending on whether they are descended from Nguni or Sotho: Nguni huts are beehive in shape; Sotho huts have window frames and full doorways. Living space is roughly divided into three parts: living accommodation, animal housing and the 'great' hut, reserved for the spirits of the patrilineal ancestors. Each chief's wife has her own hut. Land is owned by local chiefs or the Crown; much land has been bought back for the nation and unclaimed spaces are used for grazing and collection of firewood. There is a growing class system due to the expansion of the middle classes. Social rank can be determined through the individual's relation to the head of their clan or to the royal family. In urban areas, fluency and proficiency in English is the main social delineator.

There are festivals and ceremonies throughout the year, the most notable being the King's Birthday on April 19 which is celebrated with a national 'day off' and local festivities, and the Reed (Umhlanga) Dance, a three day ceremony which takes place around August when thousands of maidens (virgins) congregate from all over Swaziland. The King is permitted to pick a new bride from their number.

Matjana preschool
Matjana preschool


Volunteer for a day at Matjana Preschool, a not-for-profit pre-primary school in Kaphunga, Rural Swaziland. For more details and to contact us at Matjana [4]. Matjana Preschool was established by a group of volunteers without any organizational assistance and opened in 2007, the first preschool in the area. Since then with the support of International donors it has grown from strength to strength. In 2007, 19 children attended Matjana Preschool and one local woman was employed as the preschool teacher (working with an Australian volunteer teacher). In 2008 newly purchased furniture has allowed the organization to increase the class size; they now have a class of 22 students and enough funds to pay a second local teacher. They hope to build a new classroom at some point in the future (depending on donations) so that they can accept up to thirty students per year and continue employing two local women.

Stay safe

Swaziland has a much lower crime rate than other countries in the region.

Hippopotami are found (rarely) in the country's rivers, and are one of the more dangerous animals you are likely to come across. They are actually quite fast animals, as well as being extremely strong and with large, powerful jaws. They often stay submerged in shallow water during the day, but come out at night to graze. They can be unpredictable, territorial and very protective of their young. Do not stand between a hippo and the water.

Crocodiles are a more common danger when swimming in rivers.

Swaziland also has one of the highest numbers of people struck by lightning per capita in the whole world and it is common to know (or know of) somebody who has been struck by lightning

Be careful when crossing any of Swaziland's nineteen border gates. It is forbidden to take meat into certain areas, and the soldiers have the right to search both you and your vehicle extensively. It is extremely inadvisable to stray into 'No-Man's Land', a 5km stretch of territory between Mozambique and Swaziland; several locals have been shot by soldiers guarding the edges of the respective territories.

Whilst physical violence is not prevalent (save on weekends when many may imbibe copious quantities of brandy or marula, a highly intoxicating alcoholic beverage), wandering around alone after dark is not advisable, particularly outside Mbabane and Manzini where there is little or no street lighting. Keep your money hidden and, if you are working or travelling in impoverished rural areas, do not eat expensive foods in front of the locals, particularly the children, who, especially if they are AIDS orphans and fed as part of the Sebenta school programme, do not get to experience luxury items.

While Swazi main roads are in good repair, a four wheel drive is essential to see much of the interior, unless you wish to be stranded miles from anywhere, with a patchy telephone signal as mobile telephone masts are few and far between. Other drivers, particularly HGVs, often overtake without warning and without checking for oncoming traffic. 'Kombis', local minibuses which function as taxis, drive at a neck-or-nothing rate with more than a full quota of passengers.

Travel Warning

WARNING: Swaziland has the highest HIV prevlance rate in the world. 1 in 3 adults are infected. Do not have unprotected sex. Do not use injecting drugs.

There are risks for bilharzia if you frequent infected streams, as well as seasonal risks for malaria in the North-East parts of Swaziland near Mozambique.


Swazis are very loyal to the King and the Royalty; be smart about what is said openly.

Swaziland is also predominantly Christian, and modesty in dress is encouraged. Married women typically cover their hair.

Swazis adhere strongly to their historical traditions, which are widely practiced today. Many who are suffering from an illness will consult a sangoma to determine its cause and an inyanga to prescribe a treatment. It is the height of disrespect to be disparaging towards these individuals or to refer to them as witch doctors.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SWAZILAND (native name Pungwane), a country of British South Africa bounded S., W. and N. by the Transvaal, E. by the Portuguese possessions at Delagoa Bay and the Ingwavuma division of Zululand. It lies between the Drakensberg and Lebombo Mountains and is separated from the Indian Ocean by low land varying in width from 30 to 50 m. It has an area of 6536 sq. m. (being somewhat larger than Yorkshire) and a population (1904), of 85,484, of whom 898 were whites. The natives are nearly all Ama-Swazi Bantus, commonly called Swazis, and are closely allied to the Zulus.

Spurs from the Drakensberg occupy a large part of the country, which may be divided into three parallel belts running north and south. The western belt has an average altitude of about 4500 ft., and is known as the high veld. It is succeeded by the middle veld - not more than 2500 ft. above the sea, and that by the low veld - l 000 ft. high, which reaches to the foot of the Lebombo Mountains. These are flat-topped, nowhere higher than 2000 ft. The country is well watered by numerous rivers, all of which discharge into Delagoa Bay. The central and southern parts are drained by the Usutu and other tributaries of the Maputa; the northern region by the Komati and the Umbelozi. The Umbelozi has two chief headstreams, the Black and the White Umbelozi, the White branch being the more southerly. The climate is warm but healthy save in some of the river valleys. The flora and fauna differ in no, essential respects from the corresponding regions of the Transvaal and Zululand (see those articles).

Towns and Communications

The seat of the administration is Embabaan (Mbabane), a town on a northern tributary of the Usutu 4300 ft. above the sea, 40 m. south of Barberton and 180 m. east of Johannesburg. It replaced (1904) the former capital of Bremersdorp situated in the middle veld 23 m. south-east of Embabaan, and destroyed by Boer forces during the war of 1899-1902. Pigg's Peak and Forbes Reef are mining settlements in northern Swaziland. Hlatikulu, the chief place in southern Swaziland, is built on a plateau about 3000 ft. above the sea. Zombodi, the principal native kraal, lies about 18 m. east of Embabaan.

A railway from Lourengo Marques, 47 m. long, runs through Portuguese territory to the Swaziland border at Umbelozi Poort. This line is the eastern link in the direct railway connexion designed between Johannesburg and Delagoa Bay. From Johannesburg the line runs eastward past Springs and had reached Breyten (143 m.) in 1907. A number of good roads have been constructed. There is telegraphic connexion with the Transvaal.

Industries and Trade

The soil is generally fertile. On the high veld, where green herbage is found all the year round, large numbers of sheep and cattle are pastured. This region serves as a winter grazing ground for sheep from the Transvaal. The middle veld is suitable for grain crops as well as bananas, sugar, coffee, tea and other semi-tropical produce. Millet, maize, pumpkins and groundnuts are extensively cultivated. On the low veld cotton is grown. Some species of the cotton plant are indigenous.

Besides agriculture the only considerable industries are gold, tin and coal mining. The goldfields, situated in the north-western part of the country, are a continuation of the De Kaap (Barberton) fields. The auriferous region is stated to be about 25 sq. m. in extent. Up to the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899 the value of the gold exported from Swaziland was about £350,000. Gold mining re-started on a small scale in 1904. The output for 1906-1908 was valued at £40,000. Alluvial tin mining is carried on successfully in the neighbourhood of Embadaan, cassiterite to the value of £46,000 being exported in 1905-1907. The output for1908-1909was valued at £36,000. Anthracite coal of a good quality is found over a large area of the low veld. Copper is also found. All mining is carried on under concessions. Imports are chiefly food-stuffs and cotton goods; they were valued in 1906 at £38,000 and in 1909 at £47,000. Up to 1906 no statistics of the trade of the country were kept. Trade is with the Transvaal and Delagoa Bay. The abolition of monopolies in 1904 (see below History) gave an impetus to trade. Up to that date some £4,000,000 of foreign capital had been sunk in the country with very little return. A large number of Swazis find employment in the Rand gold mines.

Administration, &c. - Swaziland forms a crown colony under the government of the High Commissioner for South Africa. It is administered by a resident commissioner. Legislation is by ordinance. Roman-Dutch common law prevails except when modified by statute, the laws of the Transvaal being in force as far as applicable to the country. Native laws and customs are generally respected and the chiefs exercise civil jurisdiction over their tribesmen, subject to appeal to the resident commissioner's court. There is a special court to deal with serious civil and criminal cases in which Europeans are concerned. Order is maintained by a special police force. Education is mainly dependent on the efforts of missionary societies, but the administration has a few schools.

Revenue is derived chiefly from a poll-tax on natives of £I per annum, concession rents, royalties and customs. For the period1904-1909the revenue - apart from loans - was about £40,000 a year, the normal expenditure being approximately the same amount. Since 1904 considerable sums (e.g. £49,000 in 1909) have been spent by the administration on the expropriation of monopolies. Swaziland is a member of the South African Customs Union (see South Africa).


Ama-Swazi tribes are believed to have occupied the country now known as Swaziland from the period of the invasion of South East Africa by the Bantu peoples. They were formerly called Ba-Rapuza or Barabuza after a chief under whom in the 18th century they acquired homogeneity. In the early part of the 19th century they fell under the dominion of the newly constituted Zulu nation. In 1843, the year in which the British annexed Natal and with it a part of the country hitherto ruled by the Zulus, the Barabuza, under a chief named Swazi, took advantage of the comparative weakness of the Zulu power, 'achieved independence and founded the present state. According to Kaffir custom they adopted the name of their deliverer. The Boers of the Transvaal were then beginning to occupy the regions adjacent to Swaziland and in 1855 the Swazis in order to get a strip of territory between themselves and the Zulus, whose power they still dreaded, ceded to the Boers the narrow strip of land north of the Pongola river now known as the Piet Retief district. The Zulus under Cetywayo claimed the ceded district as theirs and the Swazis as their subjects and for over ten years no white farmers were able to settle in the district. With the Boers the Swazis remained on friendly terms and this friendship was extended to the British on the occupation of the Transvaal in 1877. In 1879 they joined the British in the attack on the Bapedi chief Sikukuni, whom they looked upon as an ally of the Zulus.

They captured from Sikukuni certain "rain medicine," the possession of which has since greatly increased the prestige of the paramount chief of the Swazis among the Kaffirs of South Africa. On the retrocession of the Transvaal in 1881 the independence of the Swazis was recognized by the Boers and the Pretoria convention of that year defined the boundaries of the country. By the London convention of 1884 the Transvaal again recognized the independence of Swaziland. Immediately afterwards, however, the Boers began a series of efforts to obtain control of the country. In 1886 the governor of Natal received a paper from Umbandine (Mbandini), the paramount chief of the Swazis, stating that Piet Joubert had called on him and requested him to sign a paper saying that "he and all the Swazis agreed to go over and recognize the authority of the Boer government, and have nothing more to do with the English." On his refusal the Boers replied to him, "Why do you refuse to sign the paper? You know we defeated the English at Majuba." The Boers further added that if the Swazis were relying on the British, they were leaning on a broken reed, and would find themselves left in the lurch. Umbandine followed up this communication with a request for British protection, but without result. Later on, in 1887, both Boers and gold prospectors of all nationalities were overrunning his country, and Umbandine asked for a British resident. This request was also refused. The Boers now determined to adopt towards Swaziland the policy which had proved so successful in Zululand. A colony of Boers settled within the Swazi territories and proclaimed "The Little Free State." Umbandine was then at length induced to ask the Transvaal for annexation. The Transvaal applied in 1889 to Great Britain for permission to accede to this request, but the British government replied that the only intervention to which they would consent must be a dual one. Consequently a joint commission was appointed to visit Swaziland and report on the condition of things there. Sir Francis de Winton, the British commissioner, who was accompanied by Generals Joubert and Smit on behalf of the Transvaal, reported that Umbandine had already granted concessions, such as "postal, telegraphic, banking, customs,"&c., to the Transvaal, and concessions of land mining and grazing rights to various adventurers. Umbandine had in short granted concessions of every conceivable character, including exemption from taxation. A. charter of self-government had also been granted (1888) to the whites in the country. In the circumstances de Winton considered a British protectorate inadvisable and impracticable. A dual control was arranged in 1890, but the convention then signed proved abortive owing to the objection of the Transvaal to join the South African Customs Union. In 1893 a further conference on the Swazi question took place between Sir Henry Loch, high commissioner for South Africa, and President Kruger, the result of which was that the administration of Swaziland, with certain reservations as to the rights of the natives, was made over to the South African Republic. In the following year six Swazi envoys visited England for the purpose of asking Queen Victoria to take Swaziland under her protection. In view, however, of the arrangement come to, this petition had to be refused. In 1894 a convention was signed between Great Britain and the Transvaal, and the Boers, in spite of the Swazi opposition, assumed administration of the country. The Boers' object in intriguing to acquire Swaziland was not merely that of obtaining that country. They desired also to annex the coast lands to its east and thus obtain - at Kosi Bay - a seaport of their own. This object they might have attained if they had agreed to de Winton's proposals, but Great Britain in view of the increasingly hostile attitude assumed by the Transvaal government now intervened and by annexing in 1895 Amatongaland, the region in question, blocked the Boers' further progress towards the sea (see South Africa: History). Swaziland suffered during the struggle between the Transvaal and Great Britain as to its destiny. Umbandine died in 1889 and had various successors. Ubanu, installed by the Boers as paramount chief in 18 9 4, was a sanguinary despot and was compelled to flee in 1898. The principal personage in the country after Umbandine's death was, however, his widow Naba Tsibeni, known to Europeans as the queen regent. She more than once appealed to the British to cause the Boers to respect the terms of the conventions, and before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer war in 1899 she took the side of the British. On the annexation of the Transvaal in 1901 the queen regent asked that Swaziland might be annexed also. On the cessation of hostilities a British special commissioner was sent into the country - then in a condition bordering on anarchy - and a provisional administration established. In June 1903 an order in council formally conferred the government of the country on the governor of the Transvaal (then Lord Milner). Lord Milner visited Swaziland in July 1904 and denounced "the abominable network of concessions" in which the country was entangled. On the 3rd of October following the governor issued a proclamation providing further for the administration, and for the expropriation of the concessions other than those relating to land and minerals. In September 1906 Lord Selborne, who had succeeded Lord Milner, conferred with the queen regent and her councillors on questions specially affecting the natives. A lad named Sobhuza, born about 1898, was selected as paramount chief, Naba Tsibeni, his grandmother, being confirmed as regent during his minority. In December 1906 the control of Swaziland was severed from the governorship of the Transvaal and transferred to the High Commissioner for South Africa, and in March 1907 a resident commissioner was appointed. When the Union of South Africa was established in 1910, Swaziland, with other native territories, remained under direct Imperial control.

See A. M. Miller, "Swaziland," in Journ. Roy. Col. Inst. (1900), vol. xxxi., and "Swaziland: its agricultural and pastoral future," in Transvaal Agricultural Journ., vol. iv. (1906); T. R. Jones, "Notes on the Geology of West Swaziland" in Geol. Mag. (1899), vol. vi. Colonial office reports on the country have been issued annually since 1908. Consult also the Colonial Office List issued yearly. In it are cited the Blue Books dealing with Swaziland. For history see also TRANSVAAL: Bibliography. (A. P. H.; F. R. C.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun


  1. Country in Southern Africa. Official name: Kingdom of Swaziland.


See also


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Swaziland m.

  1. Swaziland


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