About the Kingdom of Eswatini
April 19th 2018, marked Eswatini’s 50-50 Golden Jubilee Celebrations – the King’s 50th Birthday and 50 years of Independence. People heading to the celebrations knew that they were in for speeches, dances and songs, even poetry heralding Eswatini’s culture. During the celebrations, His Majesty King Mswati iii pronounced the change of The Kingdom from Swaziland to that of Eswatini (meaning the land of The Swazi’s). This follows consultations with relevant Structures of The Monarch and the Swazi Nation.
The King may have changed the name of Eswatini today, but there is much more to know about the country than its name.
Eswatini Africa’s New Promise, a Nation of Kings. From the beginning, the Kingdom of Eswatini has been a Monarchy since the Nguni people entered the territory during the 15th and 16th centuries, where they lived under the leadership of Dlamini I. The Nkhosi, Dlamini became known as Swazis (Nkhosi meaning King), and Dlamini is the surname of the Royal Family, whose Royal line dates back to about 1550 (not all Dlaminis are of Royal blood). The country and people derive their name from a later King, Mswati I, who reigned during the mid-19th century.
While the dual Swazi Monarchy is arguably the only ruling one in Africa, Morocco and Lesotho also have Kings. The Swazi King and Ingwenyama (lion) Reigns in conjunction with the Queen Mother or Ndlovukazi (she-elephant), it is generally known that the King must be the only child of his mother and unmarried. Thus the Swazi Kings are always young men when they come to the Throne. The King is regarded as the mouth-piece of his people and is described as Umlomo Longacali manga (the mouth that tells no lies).The present Monarch, King Mswati III ascended to the Throne in 1986 at the age of 18, succeeding his father King Sobhuza II, a much respected and loved man who was also the world’s longest Reigning Monarch when he died, ruling from 1921 until 1982.The Monarchy has endured throughout Eswatini’s history, often in adverse circumstances.
During the second half of the nineteenth century (The British Protectorate Era) foreign settlers acquired valuable land through concessions for agricultural and commercial use, and King Sobhuza II was instrumental in re-acquiring much of this territory for the people, which today is known as Swazi Nation Land. Eswatini became a protectorate in 1903 through The Queen Mother’s ( Queen LaBotsibeni) request on behalf of The Swazi Nation from The British Kingdom. The country retained her status until she became a self-governing state in 1967 when King Sobhuza II, previously regarded as a Paramount Chief, received International recognition as a King and the country acquired her own flag. In 1968 Independence was celebrated and the Monarchy retained its rightful position.
The landlocked Kingdom of Eswatini, which is about the same size as Wales, comprises about 17,000 square kilometers. It is situated between the Republic of South Africa and Mozambique at a latitude of 31 degrees, 30 minutes east of Greenwich and a longitude of 26 degrees, 30 minutes south of the equator. It is arguably the smallest country in the southern hemisphere and is often referred to as the Switzerland of Africa. Eswatini encompasses magnificent mountain scenery with unique, ancient rock formations, which are a source of fascination for geologists, scholars and visitors. Within this small area each feature of Africa’s terrain, apart from desert, is found.
The last census in 2007 indicates a population of 1,018,449 million people that is largely rural with just 225,293 people residing in the urban areas. 95.98% of the overall population comprises Swazi nationals.
Old Swazi traditions are carefully guarded and colourful ceremonies regularly take place to mark celebrations for the first fruit harvest and thanks giving for the end of the year as well as to preserve young women’s chastity. The two main cerimonies are the Umhlanga or Reed Dance, and the Incwala, or First Fruits Ceremony. The Umhlanga, which is held during August to September, involves unmarried maidens who, dressed in colourful beaded skirts and accessories, travel to the Royal Kraal (residence) to honour the Queen Mother and perform traditional dances. On the way, they gather the reeds which are used to make screens around the Royal Kraal and it is from this custom that the ceremony derives its name.