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Swazi History

Modern Swazi History (1900 To Present)

By Richard M. Patricks, SNTC. July 2000.

In 1902, a victorious Britain declared Swaziland as "protectorate" (colony) under a Resident Commissioner, reporting to a High Commissioner in Pretoria.

The British applied their usual policy of indirect rule, leaving the monarchy and chieftaincy basically intact.

The British listed the chiefs and their "indunas" (lieutenants) in order to tax all adult males. Migrant labour had had a late start in Swaziland, in the 1890s, now it increased as men needed to pay tax.

In 1907, the British partitioned the land giving two thirds to white sellers and one third to the Swazis under their chiefs.

Sobhuza's grandmother, the Queen Regent Labotsibefli, was a formidable opponent of the British rulers. She sent Sobhuza to Lovedale School in the Cape.

Sobhuza was installed in 1921. To the British he was "Paramount Chief while to the Swazis he was king. In effect he was the head of the Swazi Nation for 47 years prior to independence.

In 1923 Sobhuza went to England to challenge the land partition but lost the case.

In 1941, the British requested help for the war effort, and Sobhuza approved the joining up of about 4,000 Swazi men who served in North Africa and Italy.

After World War II, the economy was boosted, mostly by the first pine and sugar plantations.

In the early I 960s, as other African colonies regained their independence, Britain encouraged the formation of political parties. Sobhuza formed the "imbokodvo" ("grindstone") National Movement. The movement won all the seats in the first elections in 1967.

Swaziland regained its independence on 6 September 1968. It was the only state in black Africa ruled by the natural successors of the leadership of pre-colonial times.

In the second elections in 1973, the rival "Congress" party won three of the 18 seats. Sobhuza-in- Council then dissolved Parliament, repealed the Constitution and ruled by decree until 1978, when elections were held under the "Tinkhundla" (constituency) system.

King Sobhuza II then ruled as black Africa's only executive monarch until his death in 1982.

A supreme council of state ("Liqoqo") ruled the country for four years, while the Crown Prince, Makhosetive, finished high school in England. (Sherborne School, Dorset)

Makhosetive became King Mswati III in 1986.

In 1993, and 1998, secret ballot elections were held in a "no-party" state.

Swaziland is possibly unique in Africa as being 99% free of political violence. (One political death since independence.)

Olden Times To 1900
Swazi Kings, Queen Mothers And Royal Villages
History of His Majesty, King Sobuza II
Books To Read On Swazi History

Photos: Swaziland Digital Archives


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