U.S. Department of State, August 2000 |
Bureau of African Affairs
Area: 17,363 sq. km. (6,704 sq. miles); slightly smaller than New Jersey.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Swazi(s).
GDP (1998): $1.02 billion.
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 most 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 Nguni 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 to 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 assumed control.
In 1921 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 1921, after more than 20 years of rule by Queen Regent Lobatsibeni, Sobhuza II became Ngwenyama (lion) or head of the Swazi nation. In the early years of colonial rule, the British 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 3 seats in parliament.
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 Peoples' 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.
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. 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). 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, exercises executive authority.
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, and 55 Tinkhundla (subregional districts in which traditional chiefs are grouped).
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--King Mswati III
Swaziland maintains an embassy in the United States at Suite 3M, 3400 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-362-6683; fax. 202-244-8059). Swaziland's UN Mission is at 866 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-371-8910)
Swaziland ranks among the more prosperous countries in Africa. Most of the high-level economic activity is in the hands of non-Africans, but ethnic Swazis are becoming more active. Small entrepeneurs are moving into middle management positions. Although close to 72% 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 largely in part to the country's population growth rate that 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 persistent problems.
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 questions 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 drinks concentrate (a U.S. investment) is the country's largest export earner, followed by woodpulp and lumber from cultivated pine forests. Pineapple, citrus fruit, and cotton are other important agricultural exports.
Swaziland mines asbestos (although not in as large a volume as in previous years, as health concerns internationally led to a decline in demand), 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 fast-growing industrial sector at Matsapha also produces garments, textiles, and a variety of light manufactures. 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. And since mid-1985, the depreciation value of the currency has 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 exports. The United States is a significant market for Swazi sugar and presumably textiles should Swaziland become a beneficiary of the African Growth Opportunity Act.
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), which is at par with the South African rand.
Swaziland is a member of the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), COMESA, and SADC. More than 40 countries have accredited ambassadors to the kingdom and 6 have resident representatives. Swaziland maintains diplomatic missions in Brussels (to the EU), Copenhagen, London, Taipei, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Nairobi, Maputo, Pretoria, New York (to the UN) and Washington, DC.
The United States of America 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.
In the past, the United States assisted Swaziland in institutional and human resources development, agricultural development, and the expansion of the rural health sector and rural water systems. Assistance presently focuses on education and military training but also helps in private sector development and HIV/AIDS awareness. The U.S. Government sends about 30 Swazi professionals to the United States each year, from both the public and private sectors, primarily for masters and doctorate degrees.
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on entry requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov. Consular Affairs Tips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad are on the internet and hard copies can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
Passport information can be obtained by calling the National Passport Information Center's automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648). It also is available on the internet.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of Foreign Service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://1997-2001.state.gov.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.