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SWAZILAND

Introduction

In the Swazi kingdom, children bring joy in theirtheir hutted villages, and alongside the roads they charm you with their smiles. Picturesque and unique, Swaziland is to be savoured as a peaceful and serene lap within the exploration of Southern Africa.

In the North East of South Africa and sharing borders with Mozambique in the East, Swaziland is a tiny country with many treasures.
It has an untouched décor served with good roads and is home to beautiful nature reserves such as Malolotja, Milwane and Mkaya. It is also a healing kingdom. Meeting the ‘Inyanga”, inheriting secrets and remedies of traditional medicine from their grand parents or the “Sangoma”, herbalists and spiritual healers, might add value to your well being.

Population

Swaziland has 1.1 million inhabitants (2004) including:

  • 88.5% Swati
  • 6.8% Zulu
  • 1.7% Tsonga
  • 1.1% Afrikaners
  • 0.6% English
  • 0.5% Nyanja
  • 0.4% South Sotho

The indigenous languages belong to the Bantu family: Swazi, Zulu, Tsonga, Nyanja, South Sotho and Comorian.

Swati is the national language and is one of the two official languages alongside English.

History

Human remains dating back 100 000 years have been found in Swaziland but the Ngwane plateaus were populated much later, around the 17th century.

 

The Swazi, descendants of the Khoisan originally spread over the South East coast of Southern Africa. In the 15th and 16th centuries they gradually mixed with the Bantu migrants from Central Africa. The Swazi later settled in the Lubombo mountains in the East of Swaziland as well as in the High Veld of South Africa (now Gauteng).

In the middle of the 19th century, Zulu attacks urged the Swazi King Mswati to petition the British for protection. It encouraged the settlement of white colonials in Swaziland after 1878. They quickly monopolized the country with the support of the local sovereign.

 

In 1889, an agreement between the English and the Boers (Dutch people) turned Swaziland into a protectorate of the Boer Republic of Transvaal. Eventually the Anglo- Boer wars lead to the incorporation of the Boer lands into the British Empire. Swaziland then became a British Protectorate.

 

In 1910, the South African Union was created and Swaziland avoided the South African annexation but the lands stayed under the White farmers’ control. The Swazi started to re conquer the territory in 1921 when the King Sobhuza II bought back land with tax money accrued from immigrant workers and the working of the mines.

 

In 1968, Swaziland gained its independence from the British. A few years later, in 1973, Sobhuza II re-established the Absolute Monarchy, abolishing all political parties. English remained the official language but as Swati was spoken by 90% of the population, it earned the same status.


In the 1990s, the Monarchy entered a slow process of democratisation under pressure from opposition movements and foreign NGOs.

 

In 2003, a new constitution was born. It advocates a higher respect to Human Rights but does not question the absolutism of the Swazi regime.


The Chief of State is now King Mswati III who was educated in England.

Geography

Area: 17000 km2.

Capital: Mbabane.

Smallest country in the Southern Hemisphere, however Swaziland offers a great variety of landscapes with mountains along the Mozambican border, savannas in the East and rainy forests in the North West.


The highest point of the country is Pigg’s Peak, peaking at 1900m. The main Rivers are Komati, Umbeluzi and the Great Usutu.

 

The country has several national parks depicting the diversity of the natural environment: Hlane Royal National Park in the Lowveld, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary next to Mbabane and the luxury Mkhaya reserve between Manzini and Big bend.


Worth mentioning are the very interesting Malolotja reserve in the High Veld and Mlawula Nature Reserve in the eastern Low Veld.

Climate

Swaziland enjoys a tropical climate in the lower regions and is temperate in the mountains. The rainy season is in the summer (December to April) and mostly in the mountains in the West.
In the Low Veld, summers are extremely hot with temperatures rising above 40 degrees!

Economy

Swaziland is a poor country but not at all in crisis and has a relatively healthy economy. Sugar is the main export complemented by forest products.


Although most investment is British, South Africa has a big influence on the situation of the country.

 

About 75% of the population works in the agricultural sector and produces mainly food. Sugar, cotton, pineapple, lemon, tobacco and maize are the main products of the country.

 

However, the country is still dependent on other countries in that sector. Other activities include cattle and goat farming as well as sheep and pork.

Biodiversity

Despite its size, Swaziland is an essential area for African animal and vegetal diversity. The country is home to an amazing mosaic of natural habitats that we can divide into 4 major entities: prairies, savannas, forests and aquatic environments.

 

Among these biomes, there are:

  • more than 400 tree species
  • 500 bird species including 52 species endemic to the country or Southern Africa
  • 42 amphibian species
  • 110 reptile species
  • 127 mammal species
  • 51 fish species

 

Prairies are home to the highest number of endemic species and the highest percentage of endangered species whereas the savannas have a high diversity of species.


The eastern region of the country is part of the Centre of the vegetal diversity of Maputaland, one of the main world areas for Biodiversity, while the West of the country is part of another important sector, the Area of ornithological endemism of the Drakensberg Escarpment.

 

Plants have always been used in traditional medicine and food. Many species are exported to America, France and Spain to meet the needs of Western pharmacopoeia.