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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 17,363 sq km
Population: 1.19 million (2010 est.)
Capital city: Mbabane, population 74,000 (2009 est.)
People: Swazi
Languages: English and SiSwati
Religion(s): Christianity and indigenous beliefs
Currency: Lilangeni (plural: Emalangeni)
Major political parties: Officially none. The status of political parties, previously banned, is unclear under the 2006 Constitution; elections for the House of Assembly are done on a non-party basis. The kingdom’s largest opposition political organisation, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), was proscribed as a terrorist organisation in November 2008.
Government: Absolute Monarchy, assisted by Cabinet and traditional counsellors
Head of State: King Mswati III
Prime Minister: Sibusiso (Barnabas) Dlamini (appointed by King)
Foreign Minister: Mtiti Fakudze (appointed in October 2011)
Membership of international groupings/organisations: African Union (AU), Commonwealth, Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

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ECONOMY

Basic economic facts

GDP: US$3.7 billion (2010 est.)
Annual growth: 2.0% (2010 est.)
Inflation: 4.5% (2010 est.)
Major industries: Sugar, mining (coal), textiles, soft drink concentrate.
Major trading partners: South Africa, EU, US, Mozambique.
Exchange rate: The lilangeni is pegged at parity to the South African rand. £1 = 12.5 Emalangeni (December 2011).

Swaziland’s economy is deeply interlinked with South Africa from which it receives more than 90% of its imports and to which it sends 60% of its exports. Swaziland is also heavily dependent on customs duties from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and worker remittances from South Africa. The 60% decline in SACU revenues due to the global economic crisis resulted in a balance deficit of 12.7% in 2010.

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HISTORY

The Swazi nation has been led by a monarchy since about the middle of the seventeenth century. In 1890, Swaziland was brought under the protection and administration of the British Governor of the Transvaal. It was assumed that it would in time be incorporated into South Africa, though not against the wishes of its inhabitants. In 1910 the Transvaal became a province of the Union of South Africa and Swaziland came under the direct control of the UK. When the National Party with its policy of apartheid came to power in South Africa in 1948, incorporation of the protectorate was rendered unacceptable to both British and world opinion.

Swaziland gained limited self-government in 1964, and became a protected Kingdom in 1966 under a new constitution that recognised the King as Head of State. Elections were held in April 1967 and full independence was granted on 6 September 1968.

In April 1973, King Sobhuza II repealed the Westminster-style Independence Constitution and assumed supreme powers. In 1978, the King instituted an electoral system whereby royal nominees selected 40 members of the House of Assembly. King Sobhuza II died on 21 August 1982, having reigned for 61 years. Within a few days, a caucus of Princes and Chiefs had chosen one of Sobhuza’s many sons, Prince Makhosetive as heir. After a four-year regency, the Prince was crowned as King Mswati III on 25 April 1986.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Through membership of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Swaziland enjoys good relations with its neighbours. Swaziland’s economy depends heavily on receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and on close integration with South Africa, its main trading partner.

Swaziland's Relations with the UK

There are long historical links between the UK and Swaziland. Relations between the two countries remain amicable. Around two thousand British citizens live and work in Swaziland.

Diplomatic Representation

The British High Commission in Mbabane closed in August 2005. Representation is now from the British High Commission in Pretoria. The non-resident Deputy High Commissioner to Swaziland, based in Pretoria, visits the country on a regular basis.

The contact details for the Swazi High Commission in London are: 20 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6LB; Tel 020 7630 6611; email: enquiries@swaziland.org.uk (enquiries@swaziland.org.uk) .

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GEOGRAPHY

The Kingdom of Swaziland is a small, landlocked country bordered by South Africa and Mozambique, and is divided into four geographical and climatic bands. The mountainous Highveld, with its near-temperate climate runs along the western border; the lower altitude Middleveld, with a sub-tropical climate, and the Lowveld, with a near-tropical climate, run down the centre of the country; and the sub-tropical Lubombo (meaning ‘ridge’) runs along the eastern side of the Lowveld. The capital, Mbabane, is situated in the Highveld at 1300 metres above sea level.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

The value of direct British exports to Swaziland in 20098 was £37 million. The value of imports from Swaziland was £14 million. British goods exported to South Africa also find their way to Swaziland.

Development

Swaziland is classified as a middle-income developing country, although this misrepresents the situation as the distribution of income is highly skewed and poverty in the rural areas is widespread, 70% (est) of the population live under the poverty line. Swaziland has a Gini Index score of 0.504, making it the 22nd most unequal country. It also has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the world (25.9% HIV prevalence among 15-49 year olds), with huge economic and social implications.

As a middle-income developing country, Swaziland does not receive any direct development funding from the UK. Swaziland is, however, included within the Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) - Southern Africa regional work. The Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme works to improve national and regional food security policy. The Regional Climate Change Programme improves climate change information systems in the region to enable development programmes and policies to build resilience among the poor affected by the impact of climate change. DFID has also worked closely with development partners on a Behavioural Change Communication programme to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in Swaziland.

United Nations Development Programme (http://www.undp.org/)
European Commission Delegation to Swaziland (http://www.delswz.ec.europa.eu/)
DFID's Regional Programme for Southern Africa (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Where-we-work/Africa-Eastern — Southern/South-Africa/Regional-programme/)

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POLITICS

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy, but one with universal adult suffrage. Political parties were banned until 2006, and their status is currently unclear. MPs stand on an individual basis. Swazis have been able to vote by secret ballot for their MPs since 1993. The traditional rural ‘Tinkhundla’ system (local authorities grouping together chieftaincies) is the basis for the 55 constituencies from which MPs are drawn.

There is a bicameral parliament. The House of Assembly has 65 members, 10 appointed by the King and the rest directly elected every five years (last election: 19 September 2008). Under the new Constitution this is to be increased to 75 members, of whom 60 are to be elected from Tinkhundla constituencies, at the next elections due in 2013 The Senate has 30 members, 20 appointed by the King and 10 chosen by the House of Assembly. The Prime Minister, appointed by the King, is not necessarily an elected member of the House of Assembly (as, indeed, the present Prime Minister is not elected).

The 2005 Constitution came into effect on 8 February 2006. It introduced a Bill of Rights. This includes freedom of association, but does not specifically allow parliamentary candidates to stand for election as members of political parties. It also maintains the executive role of the monarch.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

The United Kingdom discusses, in robust terms, issues relating to human rights with the Government of Swaziland; in particular, restrictions on political parties, trade union rights, freedom of association, independence of the judicial and penal systems, gender equality and application of the Suppression of Terrorism Act and violence perpetrated by state actors, including harm wrought against those in detention,. Swaziland's human rights and governance record is also regularly discussed as part of the European Union's ongoing political dialogue, most recently in March 2011.

The Constitution’s Bill of Rights is judiciable. It incorporates a number of positive provisions for women. But many of the provisions contained in the Constitution have still to be enacted. The death penalty remains on the statute book and has been carried through to the new Constitution, although no death sentences have been carried out in Swaziland since 1982.

BBC News: Africa (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/)
BBC country profile - Swaziland (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/1069035.stm)

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Last Updated: December 2011

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