39 Interesting Facts about Swaziland

By Tayja Kuligowski, Junior Writer
Published November 7, 2016
  • In 2006, the European Union banned six airlines in Swaziland in addition to 90 other airlines throughout the world in an effort to improve air safety.[16]
  • Swaziland is the smallest country in Africa. At 6,704 square miles (17,364 square kilometers) it is slightly smaller than the state of Massachusetts.[3][12]
  • Swaziland is currently the only country in Africa not practicing multiparty democracy and is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies. The Swazi king rules by decree.[7][11]
  • Road conditions in Swaziland are so hazardous that two of the last four of its Ministers of Transport have died in road accidents.[7]
  • Before they are allowed to participate, all girls are required to undergo a virginity test
  • Once a year, Swaziland holds a fertility festival and reed dance called umhlanga. During the week-long festival, over 25,000 unmarried girls of the kingdom dress in elaborate costume and sing and dance before the Queen Mother, giving the King an opportunity to choose a new wife.[7]
  • Swaziland game rangers are allowed to shoot to kill anyone suspected of poaching. Under Swaziland law, the ranger is immune from prosecution for killing suspected poachers and can perform a search without a warrant.[19]
  • The Mlilwane in Swaziland's Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary means "little fire" in SiSwati. The name is a reference to the frequent lightning strikes on the nearby granite mountains that often result in small fires.[7][9]
  • Swaziland's Hlane Royal National Park is home to to the largest population of nesting vultures in Africa. The reserve is also a former private royal hunting ground turned national park.[7]
  • The mountains in Swaziland's Malolotja Native Reserve are among the oldest in the world at 3.6 billion years.[7]
  • Swaziland is almost completely surrounded by the larger country of South Africa, only sharing its eastern border with Mozambique.[7]
  • Swaziland's King Mswati II (1840-1868) was considered the greatest fighting king, having fought competing Zulu tribes and some of his own brothers for the throne. "Swazi" is the anglicized version of his name.[3][8]
  • Swaziland's King Mswati II introduced Christianity to the country by inviting missionaries to come and bring the "word" to his people. This invitation was based upon a dream of the previous king, Sobhuza I, of white people bringing the teachings of the Bible to Swaziland.[3]
  • Witch doctors believe that the blood and body parts of albinos can bring good luck and fortune
  • People with albinism, a condition that affects the pigments in skin, are often hunted like animals and ritually killed in Swaziland. Oftentimes their body parts are used in witchcraft, and the 2013 elections spiked fears of candidates using the body parts as good luck tokens. People with epilepsy are also often a target, and the police have taken to keeping a registry of those with the conditions in an effort to protect them.[18]
  • Unlike many monarchies that pass on the crown to the first born son, any son of a Swaziland king can be crowned as the next king as long as he is single. If too young to rule, the future king is considered the crown prince until of a proper age. In the meantime, his mother and a brother of the former king take charge.[3]
  • Swaziland rule consists of a King and a Queen Mother. The king is considered to be both the father of the nation and the child of the people, and once ascended to the thrown is known as Ngwenyama, or "lion." The Queen Mother, in addition to being the king's mother, is considered to be the mother of the country. She earns the title of Ndlovukazi, or "she elephant."[3][4]
  • After the death of a king, the Queen Mother of Swaziland is chosen before the next king based upon her character, abilities, and the number of sons she has birthed. A king must not have any competing brothers, so only wives of the former king who have had one son are chosen as the newest Queen Mother.[3]
  • The red feathers of the lourie bird are a sign of belonging to the royal family of Swaziland and can only be worn by members of the royal family.[3]
  • While it is tradition to not know the exact amount of wives or children a Swaziland king has, it is thought that King Sobhuza II acquired over 70 wives and had more than 600 children, including over 100 sons. Sobhuza II reigned from 1921 to 1982, making him the second-longest reigning monarch in world history.[3][6][20]
  • The first wife of a Swaziland king is known as the ritual wife. She is thought to belong to the entire royal family and is considered to be an extension of the new king. To fulfill these duties, the ritual wife is not allowed to have any children.[3]
  • Seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty, and the country suffers from widespread malnutrition.[19]
  • Ten percent of the population is responsible for about half of the nation’s consumption
  • Swaziland tradition has unmarried girls remain bare-chested until marriage, at which time the breasts are associated with child-bearing and are covered.[3]
  • Cattle denote a Swaziland citizen's wealth and are traditionally raised as lobola, "bridewealth." Bridewealth is the amount paid by the groom's family to the bride's family at marriage. Former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela received a lobola when his daughter married a Swazi prince.[3]
  • Traditionally, the family of a Swazi bride will receive a payment from the groom's family, usually in the form of cattle. Ten head of cattle is the usual price, but if the bride is a virgin or the daughter of a chief, additional cattle may be requested.[3]
  • Swaziland citizens can be evicted from homes and their livelihoods if they or their relatives are thought to be critical of the royal family or village chief. This power comes from the king owning and controlling about 60% of the country's land.[2][13]
  • Swaziland has two capital cities. Mbabne is the administrative, officially recognized capital, while Lobamba is the royal and legislative capital.[3]
  • While Swaziland has its own currency called the lilangeni, it is held at the same fixed rate as the South African rand. The currencies are considered interchangable, and most businesses will accept either as payment.[3]
  • Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, with 27% of their population living with the disease
  • Swaziland surpassed Botswana as having the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world, with an estimated 210,000 people out of its 1.2 million population, or 27.73% living with HIV or AIDS.[1][11]
  • The government of Swaziland has developed a "Programme of Action" to reach First World Status by the year 2022. The goal is to have Swazi citizens "enjoy lifes of value and dignity in a safe and secure environment" and have equitable access to sufficient resources, education, and health.[5]
  • About 7,000 Swaziland peoples die from HIV per year—600% more than the world average (1,000 deaths per year).[14]
  • In 2001, the king of Swaziland placed a five-year ban on men having sex with teenage girls in an attempt to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.[17]
  • An estimated 70,000 children in Swaziland have been orphaned due to AIDS. One out of every six Swazi children under the age of 15 has lost both parents to the virus.[6]
  • Swaziland infants are not recognized as "persons" until three-months of age. Until that time they are referred to as "things" with no names and cannot be touched by men.[10]
  • A current trend in Swaziland involves sending "unruly" children to juvenile correction facilities to be incarcerated—despite not committing any crimes.[15]
  • In 2010, a 12-year-old boy was sent to a juvenile correction facility in Swaziland because he had insulted his grandmother and failed to pay his US$40 fine.[15]
  • The king can only marry his brides once they become pregnant to prove they can produce heirs
  • Swaziland's current king, King Mswati III, is estimated to have at least 13 wives.[7]
  • After the death of Swaziland's King Sobhuza II in 1982, the reigning queen enforced a 75-day mourning period that only allowed commerce essential to the life of the nation. During this time, the queen outlawed sexual intercourse and those caught were punished by flogging.[6]
  • Swaziland widows traditionally shave their heads as a sign of mourning.[10]
  • According to the Assembly of Non-Government Organizations (CANGO), 78% of Swaziland women are survivors of gender-based violence.[22]
  • In 2002, the Swaziland government recently faced international criticism when it spent US$50 million on a luxury jet for the king while over two-thirds of its population lives below the poverty line.[2][16][21]
  • Swaziland: Important Dates
    400 ADBantu peoples arrive
    1750King Ngwame III leads the Dlamini clan from Mozambique
    1836King Mswati takes rule
    1840King Mswati dies; Mswati II becomes crown prince at age 6
    1840sChristian missionaries arrive
    1845Mswati II cedes land to the Boers
    1865Mswati II dies; Ludvongo takes thrown but dies soon after
    1875Mbandzeni takes rule
    1877British formally annex Transvall region as a colony from the Boers
    1880sEuropeans searching for gold arrive
    1889Mbandzeni dies; Queen Mother Labotsibien reins in lue of crown prince Bhuma
    1894Britain and the Boer Republic of Transvaal jointly rule Swaziland; Bhuma takes rule as King Ngwane V
    1899King Ngwane V dies; Queen Regent Labostibeni takes rule; Anglo-Boer war begins
    1902Britain wins the Anglo-Boer war and declares Swaziland a procterate
    1907Britain formally declares Swaziland a High Commission Territory
    1922Swaziland crowns King Sobhuza II
    1963Britain grants limited self-government
    1964Government enforces first constitution
    1968Britain grants Swaziland independence; becomes a member of the Common Wealth
    1973King Sobhuza II repeals the constitution and bans all political parties
    1977Government abolishes the parliamentary system in favor of traditional tribal communities
    1978Government revises the constitution; elections are held for a new parliament
    1982King Sobhuza II dies; Queen Mother Dzelime acts as Regent until Prince Makhosetive takes the crown
    1983Prince Makhosetive's mother,Queen Ntombi, replaces Queen Mother Dzeliwe as regent
    1986Prince Makhosetive is crowned as King Mswati III; King Mswati dissolves the Supreme Council of State in an act known as Liqoqo
    1990sCivil action promotes more democracy
    1992King Mswati dissolves parliament and announces he will govern by decree until the elections
    1993Government holds parliamentary elections
    1996King Mswati III appoints Barabas Sibusiso as Prime Minister
    1998Government holds parliamentary elections
    2004Swaziland passes Botswana as having the world's highest HIV/AIDS rate
    2005King signs new constitution with a Bill of Rights
    2008Government holds parliamentary elections
    2014The United States excludes Swaziland from the US African Growth and Opportunity Act due to human rights concern
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References

1 "Africa: Swaziland." The World Factbook. Updated June 17, 2016. Accessed: June 29, 2016.

2 "Ahead of the Bushfire Festival: Five Things You Might not Know about Swaziland." South African History Online. 2015. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

3 Blauer, Ettagale and Jason Laurè. Swaziland. New York: Children's Press, 1996.

4 "Choosing a King." The Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland. 2016. Accessed: June 29, 2016.

5 Dlamini, Barnabas Sibusiso. "His Majesty's Government Programme of Action 2013-2018." The Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland. Accessed: June 29, 2016.

6 "History." Lonely Planet. 2016. Accessed: July 7, 2016.

7 Hueler, Hilary, et al. The Rough Guide to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. London, England: Rough Guides Ltd., 2015.

8 Masson, John Richard. "Swaziland." Encyclopedia Britannica. Updated May 24, 2016. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

9 "Mlilwane Wildlife Sactuary." The Kingdom of Swaziland's Big Game Parks. 2011. Accessed: Jun 29, 2016.

10 "Swaziland." Countries and Their Cultures. 2016. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

11 "Swaziland Country Profile." BBC News. January 22, 2016. Accessed: June 29, 2016.

12 "Swaziland Facts and Info." Rhino Africa. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

13 "Swaziland Facts." National Geographic. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

14 "Swaziland." Find the Data. 2016. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

15 "Swaziland: Innocent Boy, 11, Locked Up for 10 Years." All Africa. June 22, 2016. Accessed: June 29, 2016.

16 "Swaziland Profile." BBC News. May 6, 2015. Accessed: July 31, 2016.

17 "Swaziland." South African History Online. Updated September 9, 2015. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

18 "Swaziland: Swazi Albinos Demand Govt Protection." All Africa. June 20, 2016. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

19 "Swaziland: Swazi Game Rangers 'Shoot to Kill.'" All Africa. June 28, 2016. Accessed: June 29, 2016.

20 "Swaziland." The Common Wealth. 2016. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

21 "Swaziland." World Atlas. 2016. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

22 "Swaziland." World Vision. 2016. Accessed: July 11, 2016.

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