Kingdom of Swaziland
Area: 17,363 sq. km. (6,704 sq. miles); slightly
smaller than New Jersey.
Major cities: Mbabane (capital, pop. 60,000),
Manzini (principal commercial city, pop.
Terrain: Mountainous plateau to savanna.
Climate: Near temperate to tropical.
Annual growth rate: -0.41%.
Ethnic groups: African 97%, European 3%
Religion: Zionist 40% (a blend of Christianity
and indigenous ancestral worship), Roman
Catholic 20%, Muslim 10%, other (includes
Anglican, Baha’i, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30%
primary and 44% secondary. Literacy--81.6%
mortality rate (2007)--70/1,000. Life
expectancy--40 years. The prevalence of HIV
in Swaziland's adult population is 39%, the
highest in the world.
Work force: Agriculture
and forestry--21.4%; construction--6.1%; distribution--10.5%; finance--8.3%; manufacturing--20.1%; mining
and quarry--1%; services--32.6%; transport--2.9%.
Independence: September 6, 1968.
Constitution: On July 26, 2005, King Mswati III
ratified Swaziland’s constitution. This is
Swaziland’s first constitution in over 30 years.
It went into effect February 8, 2006.
(head of state), prime minister (head of
government), cabinet (appointed by the king at
the recommendation of the prime minister). Legislative--Parliament
consisting of the House of Assembly (65 members:
55 elected, 10 appointed by the king) and Senate
(30 members: 10 appointed by the House of
Assembly, 20 appointed by the king). Judicial--a
dual court system of traditional courts under
chiefs and a Roman-Dutch system comprising
magistrates courts, High Court, Supreme Court
(formerly Court of Appeals).
Administrative subdivisions: 4 regions, 9
municipal governments, and 55 tinkhundla centers
(traditional administrative units).
Political parties: None registered, though the
new Constitution does not forbid parties.
Suffrage: Universal after 18.
GDP (2007 est.): $2.9 billion
GDP real growth rate (2007): 2.4%.
Per capita income (2007): $4,800.
Inflation (2007): 8.2%.
Natural resources: Coal, diamonds, quarry stone,
Agriculture (11.8% of GDP): Products--sugarcane,
corn, citrus fruits, livestock, wood, pineapple,
tobacco, rice, peanuts.
Manufacturing (45.7% of GDP): Types--sugar
refining, light manufactured goods, wood pulp,
textiles, processed foods, consumer goods.
Trade (2006): Exports--$1.93
billion: soft drink concentrates, sugar, pulp,
canned fruits, cotton yarn. Major
markets--South Africa, EU, Mozambique, U.S. Imports--$1.91billion:
chemicals, clothing, foodstuffs, machinery,
motor vehicles, petroleum products.
The majority of the population is ethnic Swazi,
mixed with a small number of Zulus and
non-Africans. Traditionally Swazis have been
subsistence farmers and herders, but some now
work in the growing urban formal economy and in
government. Some Swazis work in the mines in
South Africa. Christianity in Swaziland is
sometimes mixed with traditional beliefs and
practices. Most Swazis ascribe a special
spiritual role to the monarch.
The country's official languages are SiSwati (a
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 from what is now Mozambique.
Following a series of conflicts with people
living in the area of modern Maputo, the Swazis
settled in northern Zululand in about 1750.
Unable to match the growing Zulu strength, the
Swazis moved gradually northward in the 1800s
and established themselves in the area of modern
or present Swaziland.
They consolidated their hold under several able
leaders. The most important was Mswati II, from
whom the Swazis derive their name. Under his
leadership in the 1840s, the Swazis expanded
their territory to the northwest and stabilized
the southern frontier with the Zulus.
Contact with the British came early in Mswati's
reign, when he asked British authorities in
South Africa for assistance against Zulu raids
into Swaziland. It also was during Mswati's
reign that the first whites settled in the
country. Following Mswati's death, the Swazis
reached agreements with British and South
African authorities over a range of issues,
including independence, claims on resources by
Europeans, administrative authority, and
security. South Africans administered the Swazi
interests from 1894 to 1902. In 1902 the British
In 1921, after more than 20 years of rule by
Queen Regent Lobatsibeni, Sobhuza II became
Ngwenyama (lion) or head of the Swazi nation.
The same year, Swaziland established its first
legislative body--an advisory council of elected
European representatives mandated to advise the
British high commissioner on non-Swazi affairs.
In 1944, the high commissioner conceded that the
council had no official status and recognized
the paramount chief, or king, as the native
authority for the territory to issue legally
enforceable orders to the Swazis.
In the early years of colonial rule, the British
had expected that Swaziland would eventually be
incorporated into South Africa. After World War
II, however, South Africa's intensification of
racial discrimination induced the United Kingdom
to prepare Swaziland for independence. Political
activity intensified in the early 1960s. Several
political parties were formed and jostled for
independence and economic development. The
largely urban parties had few ties to the rural
areas, where the majority of Swazis lived. The
traditional Swazi leaders, including King
Sobhuza II and his Inner Council, formed the
Imbokodvo National Movement (INM), a political
group that capitalized on its close
identification with the Swazi way of life.
Responding to pressure for political change, the
colonial government scheduled an election in
mid-1964 for the first legislative council in
which the Swazis would participate. In the
election, the INM and four other parties, most
having more radical platforms, competed in the
election. The INM won all 24 elective seats.
Having solidified its political base, INM
incorporated many demands of the more radical
parties, especially that of immediate
independence. In 1966, the U.K. Government
agreed to discuss a new constitution. A
constitutional committee agreed on a
constitutional monarchy for Swaziland, with
self-government to follow parliamentary
elections in 1967. Swaziland became independent
on September 6, 1968. Swaziland's
post-independence elections were held in May
1972. The INM received close to 75% of the vote.
The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC)
received slightly more than 20% of the vote,
which gained the party three seats in
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.
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.
Although domestic groups and international
observers criticized the government in late 2002
for interfering with the independence of the
judiciary, parliament, and freedom of the press,
significant improvements have been made
concerning rule of law over the past few years.
Swaziland’s Court of Appeals resumed hearing
cases in late 2004 after a two-year absence in
protest of the government’s refusal to abide by
the court’s decisions in two important rulings.
In addition, the new Constitution went into
effect in early 2006, and the 1973 proclamation,
which, among other measures, banned political
parties, lapsed at that time.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
On July 26, 2005 King Mswati III ratified
Swaziland’s constitution. It went into effect
February 8, 2006. This is Swaziland’s first
constitution in over 30 years.
According to Swazi law and custom, the monarch
holds supreme executive, legislative, and
judicial powers. In general practice, however,
the monarch's power is delegated through a
dualistic system: modern, statutory bodies, like
the cabinet; and less formal traditional
government structures. The king must approve
legislation passed by parliament before it
becomes law. The prime minister, who is head of
government, and the cabinet, which is
recommended by the prime minister and approved
by the king, exercise executive authority. At
present, parliament consists of a 65-seat House
of Assembly (55 members are elected through
popular vote; 10 are appointed by the king) and
30-seat Senate (10 members are appointed by the
House of Assembly, and 20 are appointed by the
king). House of Assembly elections were last on
September 19, 2008. While King Mswati announced
that Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini would serve as
his new Prime Minister on October 16, cabinet
was officially dissolved immediately before the
elections and all other ministers have yet to be
For local administration Swaziland is divided
into four regions, each with an administrator
appointed by the king. Parallel to the
government structure is the traditional system
consisting of the king and his advisers,
traditional courts, 55 tinkhundla (sub regional
districts in which traditional chiefs are
grouped), and approximately 360 chiefdoms.
Swaziland is a member of the Southern African
Customs Union (SACU), with which the U.S. began
negotiating a free trade agreement in May 2003.
The other members of SACU are Botswana, Namibia,
Lesotho, and South Africa.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--King Mswati III
Head of Government--Prime Minister Sibusiso
Ambassador to the United States--Ephraim Hlophe
Permanent Representative to the UN--Phesheya
Central Bank Governor--Martin Dlamini
Swaziland maintains an embassy in the United
States at 1712 New Hampshire Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20009 (tel: 202-234-5002; fax:
202-234-8254). Swaziland's UN Mission is located
at 408 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022 (tel:
212-371-8910; fax: 212-754-2755).
Swaziland ranks as a lower middle income country
but it’s estimated that 69 percent of the
population lives in poverty. Most of the
high-level economic activity is in the hands of
non-Africans, but ethnic Swazis are becoming
more active. Small entrepreneurs are moving into
middle management positions. Although 70% of
Swazis live in rural areas, nearly every
homestead has a wage earner. The past few years
have seen wavering economic growth, which has
been exacerbated by the economy's inability to
create new jobs at the same rate that new job
seekers enter the market. This is due in part to
the country's population growth rate, which
strains the natural heritage and the country's
ability to provide adequate social services,
such as health care and education. Overgrazing,
soil depletion, drought, and floods are
Nearly 60% of Swazi territory is held by the
Crown in trust of the Swazi nation. The balance
is privately owned, much of it by foreigners.
The question of land use and ownership remains a
very sensitive one. For Swazis living on rural
homesteads, the principal occupation is either
subsistence farming or livestock herding.
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 imports were shipped through
this port. Conflict in Mozambique in the 1980s
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 U.S. investment) another large export earner,
followed by wood pulp and lumber from cultivated
pine forests. Pineapple and citrus fruit are
other important agricultural exports.
Swaziland mines coal and diamonds for export.
There also is a quarry industry for domestic
consumption. Mining contributes about 1.8% of
Swaziland's GDP each year but has been declining
in importance in recent years.
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
industrial sector at Matsapha also produces
garments, textiles, and a variety of light
manufactured products. The Swaziland Industrial
Development Company (SIDC) and the Swaziland
Investment Promotion Authority (SIPA) have
assisted in bringing many of these industries to
the country. Government programs encourage Swazi
entrepreneurs to run small and medium-sized
firms. Tourism also is important, attracting
more than 424,000 visitors annually, mostly from
Europe and South Africa.
From the mid-1980s, foreign investment in the
manufacturing sector boosted economic growth
rates significantly. Beginning in mid-1985, the
depreciated value of the currency increased the
competitiveness of Swazi exports and moderated
the growth of imports, generating trade
surpluses. During the 1990s, the country often
ran small trade deficits. South Africa and the
European Union are major customers for Swazi
Swaziland became eligible for the African Growth
and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2000 and qualified
for the apparel provision in 2001. AGOA created
over 30,000 jobs, mostly for women, in
Swaziland’s apparel industry. However, the
industry suffered in 2005-2006, due to both
increased global competition as a result of the
end of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC)
on January 1, 2005, and the strong Rand
(Swaziland’s currency is linked to the South
African Rand at par), which reduced exports.
There are an estimated 16,000 people employed in
the apparel industry.
Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, and the
Republic of South Africa form the Southern
African Customs Union (SACU), where import
duties apply uniformly to member countries.
Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa
also are members of the Common Monetary Area
(CMA) in which repatriation and unrestricted
funds are permitted. Swaziland issues its own
currency, the lilangeni (plural: emalangeni).
Swaziland is a member of the United Nations, the
African Union, and the Common Market for Eastern
and Southern Africa (COMESA). It is presently
the chair of the Southern African Development
Community’s (SADC) Organ for Defense, Politics,
and Security. Ten accredited ambassadors or
honorary consuls are resident in the country.
Swaziland maintains diplomatic missions in
Brussels, Copenhagen, Kuala Lumpur, London,
Maputo, Nairobi, Pretoria, Taipei, the United
Nations, and Washington.
The United States seeks to maintain and
strengthen the good bilateral relations that
have existed since the kingdom became
independent in 1968. U.S. policy stresses
continued economic and political reform and
improved industrial relations.
The United States assists Swaziland with a
number of HIV/AIDS initiatives and programs
implemented through the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID), Centers for
Disease Control (CDC), the Peace Corps, African
Development Foundation, the Department of Labor,
and the Department of Defense. In addition, the
U.S. supports small enterprise development,
education, military training, institutional and
human resources development, agricultural
development, and trade capacity building. The
U.S. is also the largest bilateral donor to the
Global Fund, Swaziland’s principal HIV/AIDS
funding source. The U.S. Government sends about
4 Swazi professionals to the United States each
year, from both the public and private sectors,
primarily for master’s degrees, and about 5
others for three- to four-week International
Visitor programs. About 6 military members are
sent to the United States for education and
In 2003, Peace Corps volunteers returned to
Swaziland after a nine-year absence. The current
Peace Corps/Swaziland program, Community Health
Project, focuses on HIV/AIDS and provides
assistance in the execution of two components of
the HIV/AIDS national strategy--risk reduction
and mitigation of the impact of the disease.
Volunteers encourage youth to engage in
appropriate behaviors that will reduce the
spread of HIV; they work with children orphaned
by the HIV/AIDS pandemic; and they assist in
capacity building for non-governmental
organizations and community based organizations.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Sarah Morrison
Peace Corps Country Director--Nwando Diallo
Swaziland is situated in the Central Bank of
Swaziland building in the Mbabane city center.
The address is American Embassy, 7th floor
Central Bank Building, Warner St., Box 199,
Mbabane, Swaziland (tel. 268-404-6441/6445; fax