Facts & figures

Full name: The Kingdom of Swaziland

Population: 1.2 million (UN, 2012)

Capital: Mbabane

Area: 17,364 sq km (6,704 sq miles)

Major languages: Swazi, English (both official)

Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs

Life expectancy: 50 years (men), 49 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: 1 Lilangeni = 100 cents

Main exports: Sugar, wood pulp, minerals

GNI per capita: US $3,470 (World Bank, 2011)

Internet domain: .sz

International dialling code: +268





King: Mswati III

King Mswati has resisted calls for democracy

King Mswati III was crowned in 1986 at the age of 18, succeeding his long-serving father King Sobhuza II, who died at the age of 82.


Visa & travel advice

  • Best period

The ideal time to travel to Swaziland is between the months of May and October. Try not to visit the country at any time between November and April, when it’s hot and rainy and there’s an elevated risk of contracting malaria, or in December and January, when crime often spikes.

  • Safety

Public protests and demonstrations about labor issues are sometimes held in Swaziland and should always be avoided. Petty and occasional violent crime is the most common in Mbabane, the capital city, and Manzini, Swaziland’s urban center. Visitors are cautioned against wearing jewelry or carrying expensive valuables in public. Be sure to accept rides only from authorized taxis, and do not enter a taxi already occupied by anyone other than the driver. Also not to be disregarded is the fact that Swaziland has the world’s highest rate
 of HIV infection. Always practice safe sex.



Bantu peoples migrated southwest to the area of Mozambique in the 16th century. A number of clans broke away from the main body in the 18th century and settled in Swaziland. In the 19th century these clans organized as a tribe, partly because they were in constant conflict with the Zulu. Their ruler, Mswazi, appealed to the British in the 1840s for help against the Zulu. The British and the Transvaal governments guaranteed the independence of Swaziland in 1881.

South Africa held Swaziland as a protectorate from 1894 to 1899, but after the Boer War, in 1902, Swaziland was transferred to British administration. The paramount chief was recognized as the native authority in 1941. In 1963, the territory was constituted a protectorate, and on Sept. 6, 1968, it became the independent nation of Swaziland.

Since 1986, King Mswati III has ruled as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned and the king appoints 10 of the 65 members of parliament as well as the prime minister. King Mswati can veto any law passed by the legislature and frequently rules by decree.

In 2002, hundreds of thousands of Swazis faced starvation. Two years of drought as well as bad planning and poor agricultural practices were blamed for the crisis. The government came under criticism for buying the king a $50-million luxury jet—a quarter of the national budget—while famine loomed. In 2002, the country's judges resigned en masse in protest of the government's refusal to comply with court decisions. In April 2003, the government information minister announced that the media were banned from making negative remarks about the government—criticism of the king's new luxury jet in particular would not be tolerated. In 2004, a third year of drought befell the country. International donor agencies and human rights groups condemned the king's plans to build new multimillion-dollar palaces for each of his 11 wives (12 by 2005) while his people faced starvation and the country's AIDS epidemic spiraled out of control. About 30% of the population is infected.

Although the king signed the country's first constitution in Aug. 2005, the document essentially maintains the status quo: opposition parties remain banned and the king retains ultimate power.

Arts & Culture

  • Music :

The music of Swaziland is composed of both ethnic Swazi music and varieties of folk music as well as modern genres such as rock, pop and hip hop, which has been popular in Swaziland since the 1990s, headed by bands such as Vamoose. The popularity of hip hop in South Africa, which shares a border with Swaziland, has also helped popularize it.

Two major festivals in Swaziland are Incwala and Umhlanga.The former takes place in December while the latter takes place in August. Umhlanga is known for its dance, performed exclusively by women, and its 5-day ceremony, which involves reed-cutting.Traditional instruments used include: the kudu horn, calabash, rattles, makeyana and reed flute.

  • Literature :

Swaziland Writer Profile: Sarah Mkhonza

Swazi Writer Sarah Mkhonza was forced to leave her country of Swaziland and seek asylum in the United States.

Swaziland is a small, landlocked country located within the borders of South Africa. It was colonized by the British and assembles ethnic groups of Nguni origin that in the 19th Century pledged their allegiance to a chieftain of the Dlamini clan, whose descendents are now the royal family of Swaziland.

  • Film industry

Autonomy for the Swazis of southern Africa was guaranteed by the British in the late 19th century; independence was granted 1968. Student and labor unrest during the 1990s have pressured the monarchy (one of the oldest on the continent) to grudgingly allow political reform and greater democracy.

There is no film industry and little video activity in Swaziland. While many institutions have VHS video cameras, the equipment tends to be under-utilised for lack of editing facilities. Swazi TV has the only video editing facility in the country, apart from a NTSC Super VHS system with the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1999 Swaziland hosted two Canadian interns who covered several trips of the mobile video unit in the country of Swaziland and Mozambique. A fifteen-minute French version of their work has been sent to SACOD for use in fund raising and awareness for mobile video projects. The producer/director Gcinaphi Dlamini shot two programmes on disability for Save the Children Fund (UK). The filming of Eye to Eye was done in Swaziland. No feature film or documentary has ever been produced for the silver screen.

  • Famous monuments & places

Mantojolo Pool







  • Architecture history

The predominant home style is the Nguni "bee-hive" hut, in which a rounded frame made of poles is covered with thatch bound with plaited ropes. Sotho huts, which have pointed, detachable roofs on walls of mud and wattle, are found throughout the country; these huts have window frames and full doorways. Both types can be found within a single homestead, which may also include European architectural styles. Traditional homestead organization follows the "central cattle pattern." In the center of the homestead is an unroofed, fenced cattle pen, the sibaya , from which women are barred. Residential huts are grouped around the western side. The "great hut," indlunkulu is used as the family shrine, dedicated to the senior patrilineal ancestors. Other huts are occupied by individual wives.



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