Swaziland Country Facts - Tips

Swaziland Country Facts Bureau of African Affairs
October 2007

Background Note: Swaziland Country Facts

Flag of Swaziland is three horizontal bands of blue (top), red (triple
width), and blue; the red band is edged in yellow; centered in the red band
is a large black and white shield covering two spears and a staff decorated
with feather tassels, all placed horizontally.


Kingdom of Swaziland

Area: 17,363 sq. km. (6,704 sq. miles); slightly smaller than New Jersey.
Major cities: Mbabane (capital, pop. 60,000), Manzini (principal commercial
city, pop. 65,000).
Terrain: Mountainous plateau to savanna.
Climate: Near temperate to tropical.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Swazi(s).
Population (2004): 1.1 million.
Annual growth rate (2002): 2.7%.
Ethnic groups: The overwhelming majority of the population is Swazi.
Religion: It is estimated that the population is 35% Protestant, 30% Zionist
(indigenous), 25% Roman Catholic, 1% Islamic, with the remaining 9% divided
among other beliefs.
Official languages: SiSwati and English.
Education: Years compulsory--none. Attendance--65% primary and 44% secondary.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2001)--89/1,000. Life expectancy--33 years.
The prevalence of HIV in Swaziland's adult population is 42.6%, the highest
in the world.
Work force: Agriculture and forestry--21.4%; construction--6.1%;
distribution--10.5%; finance--8.3%; manufacturing--20.1%; mining and
quarry--1%; services--32.6%; transport--2.9%.

Type: Monarchy.
Independence: September 6, 1968.
Constitution: On July 26, 2005, King Mswati III ratified Swaziland's
constitution. This is Swaziland's first constitution in over 30 years. It
went into effect February 8, 2006.
Branches: Executive--monarch (head of state), prime minister (head of
government), cabinet (appointed by the king at the recommendation of the
prime minister). Legislative--Parliament consisting of the House of Assembly
(65 members: 55 elected, 10 appointed by the king) and Senate (30 members: 10
appointed by the House of Assembly, 20 appointed by the king). Judicial--a
dual court system of traditional courts under chiefs and a Roman-Dutch system
comprising magistrates courts, High Court, Supreme Court (formerly Court of
Administrative subdivisions: 4 regions, 9 municipal governments, and 55
tinkhundla centers (traditional administrative units).
Political parties: None registered, though the new Constitution does not
forbid parties.
Suffrage: Universal after 18.

GDP (2004): $2.8 billion.
GDP real growth rate (2005): 1.8%.
Per capita income (2004): $1,553.
Inflation (2006): 5.4%.
Natural resources: Coal, diamonds, quarry stone, timber, talc.
Agriculture (15.7% of GDP): Products--sugarcane, corn, citrus fruits,
livestock, wood, pineapple, tobacco, rice, peanuts.
Manufacturing (35.0% of GDP): Types--sugar refining, light manufactured
goods, wood pulp, textiles, processed foods, consumer goods.
Trade (2003): Exports--$920.2 million: soft drink concentrates, sugar, pulp,
canned fruits, cotton yarn. Major markets--South Africa, EU, Mozambique, U.S.
Imports--$1,018.8 million: chemicals, clothing, foodstuffs, machinery, motor
vehicles, petroleum products.

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 some 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 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, after more than 20 years of rule by Queen Regent Lobatsibeni,
Sobhuza II became Ngwenyama (lion) or head of the Swazi nation. The same
year, 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 the early years of colonial rule, the British had 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 three 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 People's 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.

Although domestic groups and international observers criticized the
government in late 2002 for interfering with the independence of the
judiciary, parliament, and freedom of the press, significant improvements
have been made concerning rule of law in the past two years. Swaziland's
Court of Appeals resumed hearing cases in late 2004 after a two-year absence
in protest of the government's refusal to abide by the court's decisions in
two important rulings. In addition, the new Constitution went into effect in
early 2006, and the 1973 proclamation, which, among other measures, banned
political parties, lapsed at that time.

On July 26, 2005 King Mswati III ratified Swaziland's constitution. It went
into effect February 8, 2006. This is Swaziland's first constitution in over
30 years.

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. 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, exercise executive authority. 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). House of Assembly elections were last held October

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, 55 tinkhundla (subregional districts in which traditional chiefs are
grouped), and 366 chiefdoms.

Swaziland is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), with
which the U.S. began negotiating a free trade agreement in May 2003. The
other members of SACU are Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, and South Africa.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--King Mswati III
Head of Government--Prime Minister A. T. Dlamini
Deputy Prime Minister--Constance Simelane
Ambassador to the United States--Ephraim Hlophe
Permanent Representative to the UN--Phesheya Dlamini
Central Bank Governor--Martin Dlamini

Cabinet Ministers
Agriculture and Cooperatives--Mtiti Fakudze
Economic Planning and Development--Rev. Absalom Muntu Dlamini
Education--Themba Msibi
Enterprise and Employment--Senator Lutfo Dlamini
Finance--Majozi Sithole
Foreign Affairs and Trade--Senator Mathendele Dlamini
Health and Social Welfare--Njabulo Mabuza
Home Affairs--Prince Gabheni
Housing and Urban Development--Mabili Dlamini
Justice and Constitutional Affairs--Prince David Dlamini
Public Service and Information--Sgayoyo Magongo
Natural Resources and Energy--Dumsile Sukati
Tourism, Environment, and Communication--Thandie Shongwe
Public Works and Transport--Elijah Shongwe
Regional Development and Youth Affairs--Chief Sipho Shongwe

Swaziland maintains an embassy in the United States at 1712 New Hampshire
Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel: 202-234-5002; fax: 202-234-8254).
Swaziland's UN Mission is located at 408 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022
(tel: 212-371-8910; fax: 212-754-2755).

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 entrepreneurs are moving into middle
management positions. Although 70% 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 in part to the country's population growth rate, which 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
question 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

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 drink concentrate (a U.S.
investment) is the country's largest export earner, followed by wood pulp and
lumber from cultivated pine forests. Pineapple, citrus fruit, and cotton are
other important agricultural exports.

Swaziland mines 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 manufactured products. 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. Beginning in mid-1985, the depreciated
value of the currency 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.

Swaziland became eligible for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)
in 2000 and qualified for the apparel provision in 2001. AGOA created over
30,000 jobs, mostly for women, in Swaziland's apparel industry. However, the
industry suffered in 2005-2006, due to both increased global competition as a
result of the end of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) on January
1, 2005, and the strong Rand (Swaziland's currency is linked to the South
African Rand at par), which reduced exports.

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).

Swaziland is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, Common Market
for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and Southern African Development
Community (SADC). Ten accredited ambassadors or honorary consuls are resident
in the country. Swaziland maintains diplomatic missions in Brussels,
Copenhagen, Kuala Lumpur, London, Maputo, Nairobi, Pretoria, Taipei, the
United Nations, and Washington.

The United States 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.

The United States assists Swaziland with a number of HIV/AIDS initiatives and
programs implemented through the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Peace Corps, African
Development Foundation, the Department of Labor, and the Department of
Defense. In addition, the U.S. supports small enterprise development,
education, military training, institutional and human resources development,
agricultural development, and trade capacity building. The U.S. is also the
largest bilateral donor to the Global Fund, Swaziland's principal HIV/AIDS
funding source. The U.S. Government sends about 4 Swazi professionals to the
United States each year, from both the public and private sectors, primarily
for master's degrees, and about 5 others for three- to four-week
International Visitor programs.

In 2003, Peace Corps volunteers returned to Swaziland after a nine-year
absence. The current Peace Corps/Swaziland program, Community Health Project,
focuses on HIV/AIDS and provides assistance in the execution of two
components of the HIV/AIDS national strategy--risk reduction and mitigation
of the impact of the disease. Volunteers encourage youth to engage in
appropriate behaviors that will reduce the spread of HIV; they work with
children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic; and they assist in capacity
building for non-governmental organizations and community based

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Maurice Parker
Deputy Chief of Mission--Sarah Morrison (arrival November 2007)
Peace Corps Country Director--Nwando Diallo

The U.S. Embassy in Swaziland is situated in the Central Bank of Swaziland
building in the Mbabane city center. The address is American Embassy, 7th
floor Central Bank Building, Warner St., Box 199, Mbabane, Swaziland (tel.
268-404-6441/6445; fax 268-404-1695).

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For
additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizenstraveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

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.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
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