Swaziland

Posted on January 15, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland (Umbuso weSwatini), and sometimes calledNgwane or Swatini, 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 kilometres (120 mi) north to south and 130 kilometres (81 mi) east to west. The western half is mountainous, descending to a lowveldregion 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 reach40 °C (104 °F) in summer in the lowveld. Rainfall occurs mainly in the summer and may reach 2 metres (6.6 ft) 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 the United Kingdommake 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 newconstitution was adopted in 2005.

Some 75% of the population are employed in subsistence farming, and 60% of the population live on less than the equivalent of US$1.25 per day.[4] 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.”[5] The infection rate in the country is unprecedented and the highest in the world at 26.1% of adults[6] and over 50% of adults in their 20s.[5]

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[edit]History

Lake with Hippopotami in the Mlilwane reserve, Swaziland, August 2003

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 Khoisanhunter-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.[7]

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 house, while Nkosi means “king”. Scholarly history of Swaziland shows that independent chiefdoms and small kingdoms dominated by various clans were initially conquered and incorporated into the growing Ngwane kingdom ruled by members of the Dlamini clan sometime in the 18th and 19th centuries, long before British colonisation.[8]

According to Swazi royalist tradition, these clans came to be classified in the Dlamini kingdom as the Emakhandzambile category of clans (“those found ahead”, e.g. the Gamedze), meaning that they were on the land prior to Dlamini immigration and conquest, as opposed to theBomdzabuko (“true Swazi”) who accompanied the Dlamini kings, and the Emafikemuva (“those who came behind”) who joined the kingdom later. Emakhandzambile clans initially were incorporated with wide autonomy, and often in part by granting them special ritual and political status (cf. mediatisation), but the extent of their autonomy was drastically curtailed by King Mswati II, who attacked and subdued some of the clans in the 1850s.[8]

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). Swaziland was indirectly involved in the Second Boer War (1899–1902).

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 supporters of the current Tinkhundla (constituencies) System of governance or Grass Roots Democracy System.

In June 2011, Swaziland, fearing bankruptcy, asked for a financial bailout from South Africa. [9]

[edit]Government

Embassy of Swaziland inWashington, D.C. USA

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 theNdlovukati became more symbolic. The king appoints the prime minister from the legislature and also appoints a minority of legislators to both chambers of Libandla (parliament), with help from an advisory council. The king is allowed by the constitution to appoint some members to parliament for special interests. These special interests are citizens who might have been left out by the electorate during the course of elections or did not enter as candidates. This is done in order to balance views in parliament. Special interests could be people of gender, race, disability, business community, civic society, scholars, chiefs and so on. The Senate consists of 30 members which some are appointed by the king on recommendation of the advisory council and others elected by the lower house. The House of Assemblyhas 65 seats, 55 of which are occupied by elected representatives from the 55 constituencies around the country, 10 appointed by the king on recommendation of the advisory council and the attorney general is the ex-officio member. Elections are held every five years.

In 1968, Swaziland adopted a Westminster-style constitution, but in 1973 King Sobhuza II on the advice of parliament at the time suspended it due to widespread complaints by citizens of the country. 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 andhuman 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. However despite complaints from progressive formations, strong support for the monarchy and the current political system by the majority of the population is still there. This is due to the fact that submissions were made by citizens around the country to commissions including the constitutional draft committee that they would prefer to maintain the current situation.

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.

[edit]Administrative divisions

A clickable map of Swaziland exhibiting its four districts.

About this image

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.

[edit]Geography

Wz-map.gif

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 26°30'S, 31°30'E.[10] Swaziland also offers a wide variety of landscapes, from the mountains along the Mozambican border to savannas in the east and rain forestin 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 canyons 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 anescarpment. 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.

[edit]Climate

Topographic map of Swaziland

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 1,000 and 2,000 mm (39.4 and 78.7 in) depending on the year. The further East, the less rain, with the Lowveld recording 500 to 900 mm (19.7 to 35.4 in) 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 °C (104 °F) in summer.

The average temperatures at Mbabane, according to seasons:

Spring September – October 18 °C (64.4 °F)
Summer November – March 20 °C (68 °F)
Autumn April – May 17 °C (62.6 °F)
Winter June – August 13 °C (55.4 °F)

[edit]Economy

Coins of Swaziland

Swaziland’s economy is diversified, with agricultureforestry 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 Act – AGOA – 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.

[edit]Health

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 64% of all deaths in the country were caused by HIV/AIDS.[11] In 2009, an estimated 7,000 people died from AIDS-related causes.[12] On a total population of approximately 1,185,000[13] this implies that AIDS kills an estimated 0.6% of the population every year. Chronic illnesses that are the most prolific causes of death in the developed world account 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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

Public expenditure was at 4% of the GDP of the country, whereas private expenditure was at 2.3%.[17][specify] There were 16 physicians per 100,000 persons in the early 2000s.[17][specify] Infant mortality was at 69 per 1,000 in 2005,[17][specify] with the WHO showing that 47% of all deaths under 5 are caused by HIV/AIDS.[11]

[edit]Culture

Swazi people dancing in a cultural village show

Traditional homes in Swaziland

The principal 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. TheInyanga (a medical and pharmaceutical specialist in western 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.

Swaziland is also known for a strong presence in the handcrafts industry. The formalized handcraft businesses of Swaziland employ over 2,500 people, many of whom are women (per TechnoServe Swaziland Handcrafts Impact Study,” February 2011). The products are unique and reflect the culture of Swaziland, ranging from housewares, to artistic decorations, to complex glass, stone, or wood artwork.

[edit]Education

Education in Swaziland is now free at primary level mainly 1st and 2nd grades and also free for orphaned and vulnerable children but not compulsory.[18] In 1996, the net primary school enrollment rate was 90.8%, with gender parity at the primary level.[18] In 1998, 80.5% of children reached grade five.[18] The University of Swaziland provides higher education. The Swaziland National Library Service operates public community libraries throughout Swaziland and establishes school libraries in partnership with Fundza, a non-governmental organization and the African Library Project.[19]

[edit]Demographics

The majority of Swaziland's population is ethnically Swazi, mixed with a small number of Zulu and White Africans, mostly people of Britishand 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 MozambiqueChristianity 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.[20]

[edit]Languages

SiSwati[21] (also known as SwatiSwazi 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 ofSouth Africa.

About 76,000 people in the country speak Zulu.[22] 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.

[edit]Religions

The most common religion in Swaziland is Christianity which totals 82.70% of the total population, in which various Protestant andindigenous 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%).[23]

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