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Little Known Kingdom Of Eswatini, Africa’s Last Absolute Monarchy

6 Min Read

Eswatini, officially the Kingdom of Eswatini and formerly known in English as Swaziland, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It is bordered by Mozambique to its northeast and South Africa to its north, west, and south.

The capital cities are Mbabane and Lobamba. This kingdom seats on a territorial size with Area: 17,364 km² with a Population: 1.136 million. Their currency is known as: Swazi lilangeni. For example 1000 Swazi lilangeni= U$61.16.

Mswati III aged 52, (full names Makhosetive Dlamini ) is the king of Eswatini and head of the Swazi Royal Family. He was born in Manzini in the Protectorate of Swaziland to King Sobhuza II and one of his younger wives, Ntfombi Tfwala.

Artifacts indicating human activity dating back to the early Stone Age have been found in the Kingdom of Eswatini. Prehistoric rock art paintings date from c. 25,000 B.C. and continuing up to the 19th century can be found in various places around the country.

The area that is now eSwatini has been inhabited for millennia, and human-like remains possibly dating back as far as 100,000 years have been discovered around the Lebombo Mountains in eastern eSwatini.

However, today’s Swazis trace their ancestors to much more recent arrivals. By around AD 500, various Nguni groups had made their way to the region as part of the great Bantu migrations.

One of these groups settled in the area around present-day Maputo (Mozambique), eventually founding the Dlamini dynasty. In the mid-18th century, in response to increasing pressure from other clans in the area, the Dlamini king, Ngwane III, led his people southwest to the Pongola River, in present-day southern eSwatini and northern KwaZulu-Natal.

This became the first Swazi heartland. Ngwane’s successor, Sobhuza I, established a base in the Ezulwini Valley, which still remains the centre of Swazi royalty and ritual.

Next came King Mswazi (or Mswati), after whom the Swazi take their name. Despite pressure from the neighbouring Zulu, Mswazi succeeded in unifying the whole kingdom. From the mid-19th century, eSwatini attracted increasing numbers of European farmers in search of land for cattle, as well as hunters, traders and missionaries.

Over the next decades, the Swazis saw their territory whittled away as the British and Boers jostled for power in the area. In 1902, following the Second Anglo-Boer War, the Boers withdrew and the British took control of eSwatini as a protectorate.

Struggle for Independence Swazi history in the early 20th century centred on the ongoing struggle for independence.

reed dance

Under the leadership of King Sobhuza II (guided by the capable hands of his mother, Lomawa Ndwandwewho, who acted as regent while Sobhuza was a child), the Swazis succeeded in regaining much of their original territory. This was done in part by direct purchase and in part by British government decree.

This was a major development, as Swazi kings are considered to hold the kingdom in trust for their subjects, and land ownership is thus more than just a political and economic issue.

Independence was finally achieved – the culmination of a long and remarkably nonviolent path – on 6 September 1968, 66 years after the establishment of the British protectorate.

The first Swazi constitution was largely a British creation, and in 1973 the king suspended it on the grounds that it did not accord with Swazi culture.

Four years later parliament reconvened under a new constitution vesting all power in the king. Sobhuza II died in 1982, at that time the world’s longest-reigning monarch.

In 1986 the young Mswati III ascended the throne, where he continues today to represent and maintain the traditional Swazi way of life and to assert his pre-eminence as absolute monarch.

Culture and Customs

The Kingdom of Eswatini is also renowned for its wealth of culture. With ceremonies and festivities (like the famous “reed dance” and the Marula Festival) taking place all year long.

In eSwatini, it’s customary for women to not eat the head or feet of a cow. It is believed that if a woman eats the brains of a cow, she will become intelligent; if she eats the tongue, she will talk back to her husband; and if she eats the feet, she will run away. For the same reason, Swazis say that you should never buy your wife a pair of shoes.

Dance is key to the Swazis’ cultural identity, and every single member of the community is expected to participate during cultural celebrations. Every year, 10,000 young women perform for the Queen Mother at the Umhlanga (Reed Dance Festival), while the men get their turn before the king at the Incwala, which takes place during the summer solstice. Not surprisingly, the dancers were the most important part of the 50:50 celebrations.

eSwatini’s kings are polygamous. Mswati III has 15 wives and his father, Sobhuza II (the longest reigning monarch in history) had 70. That makes for a huge number of princes and princesses. You can generally spot a member of the royal family in a crowd because they are entitled to wear red feathers in their hair.