Facts

Population: Estimate 1.343 million
Area: 17,364 km²
Capital City:  
Mbabane and Lobamba

Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Eswatini (/ˈswɑːzɪlænd/ or /-lənd/; Swazi: Umbuso weSwatini; sometimes called kaNgwane or Eswatini), is a sovereign state in Southern Africa. It is neighboured by Mozambique to its northeast and by South Africa to its north, west and south; it is a landlocked country. The country and its people take their names from Mswati II, the 19th-century king under whose rule Swazi territory was expanded and unified. At no more than 200 kilometres (120 mi) north to south and 130 kilometres (81 mi) east to west, Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa; despite this, its climate and topography are diverse, ranging from a cool and mountainous highveldto a hot and dry lowveld. The population is primarily ethnic Swazis whose language is Swati. They established their kingdom in the mid-18th century under the leadership of Ngwane III; the present boundaries were drawn up in 1881 in the midst of the scramble for Africa. After the Anglo-Boer War, Swaziland was a Britishprotectorate from 1903 until 1967. It regained its independence on 6 September 1968. The country is an absolute monarchy, ruled by Ngwenyama (“King”) Mswati III since 1986. He is head of state and appoints the country’s prime ministers and a number of representatives of both chambers (Senate and House of Assembly) in the country’s parliament. Elections are held every five years to determine the House of Assembly and the Senate majority. The current constitution was adopted in 2005. Swaziland is a developing country with a small economy. With a GDP per capita of $9,714, it is classified as a country with a lower-middle income. As a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), its main local trading partner is South Africa; in order to ensure economic stability, Swaziland’s currency, the lilangeni, is pegged to the South African rand. Swaziland’s major overseas trading partners are the United States and the European Union. The majority of the country’s employment is provided by its agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Swaziland is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union, the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations. The Swazi population faces major health issues: HIV/AIDS and, to a lesser extent, tuberculosis are serious challenges. As of 2013, Swaziland has the lowest estimated life expectancy in the world, at 49.18 years. The population of Swaziland is fairly young with a median age of 20.5 years and people aged 14 years or younger constituting 37.4% of the country’s total population. The present population growth rate is 1.195%. Umhlanga, held in August/September and incwala, the kingship dance held in December/January, are the nation’s most important events.




Currency

Climate

Swaziland is divided into four climatic regions, the Highveld, Middleveld, Lowveld and Lubombo plateau. The seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere with December being mid-summer and June mid-winter. Generally speaking, rain falls mostly during the summer months, often in the form of thunderstorms. Winter is the dry season. Annual rainfall is highest on the Highveld in the West, between 1,000 and 2,000 mm (39.4 and 78.7 in) depending on the year. The further East, the less rain, with the Lowveld recording 500 to 900 mm (19.7 to 35.4 in) per annum. Variations in temperature are also related to the altitude of the different regions. The Highveld temperature is temperate and seldom uncomfortably hot, while the Lowveld may record temperatures around 40 °C (104 °F) in summer.

 

Culture

The principal Swazi social unit is the homestead, a traditional beehive hut thatched with dry grass. In a polygamous homestead, each wife has her own hut and yard surrounded by reed fences. There are three structures for sleeping, cooking, and storage (brewing beer). In larger homesteads there are also structures used as bachelors’ quarters and guest accommodation. Central to the traditional homestead is the cattle byre, a circular area enclosed by large logs interspaced with branches. The cattle byre has ritual as well as practical significance as a store of wealth and symbol of prestige. It contains sealed grain pits. Facing the cattle byre is the great hut which is occupied by the mother of the headman. The headman is central to all homestead affairs and he is often polygamous. He leads through example and advises his wives on all social affairs of the home as well as seeing to the larger survival of the family. He also spends time socialising with the young boys, who are often his sons or close relatives, advising them on the expectations of growing up and manhood. The Sangoma is a traditional diviner chosen by the ancestors of that particular family. The training of the Sangoma is called “kwetfwasa”. At the end of the training, a graduation ceremony takes place where all the local sangoma come together for feasting and dancing. The diviner is consulted for various reasons, such as the cause of sickness or even death. His diagnosis is based on “kubhula”, a process of communication, through trance, with the natural superpowers. The Inyanga (a medical and pharmaceutical specialist in western terms) possesses the bone throwing skill (“kushaya ematsambo”) used to determine the cause of the sickness. The most important cultural event in Swaziland is the Incwala ceremony. It is held on the fourth day after the full moon nearest the longest day, 21 December. Incwala is often translated in English as “first fruits ceremony”, but the King’s tasting of the new harvest is only one aspect among many in this long pageant. Incwala is best translated as “Kingship Ceremony”: when there is no king, there is no Incwala. It is high treason for any other person to hold an Incwala. Every Swazi may take part in the public parts of the Incwala. The climax of the event is the fourth day of the Big Incwala. The key figures are the King, Queen Mother, royal wives and children, the royal governors (indunas), the chiefs, the regiments, and the “bemanti” or “water people”. Swaziland’s most well-known cultural event is the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance. In the eight-day ceremony, girls cut reeds and present them to the queen mother and then dance. (There is no formal competition.) It is done in late August or early September. Only childless, unmarried girls can take part. The aims of the ceremony are to preserve girls’ chastity, provide tribute labour for the Queen mother, and to encourage solidarity by working together. The royal family appoints a commoner maiden to be “induna” (captain) of the girls and she announces over the radio the dates of the ceremony. She will be an expert dancer and knowledgeable on royal protocol. One of the King’s daughters will be her counterpart. The Reed Dance today is not an ancient ceremony but a development of the old “umchwasho” custom. In “umchwasho”, all young girls were placed in a female age-regiment. If any girl became pregnant outside of marriage, her family paid a fine of one cow to the local chief. After a number of years, when the girls had reached a marriageable age, they would perform labour service for the Queen Mother, ending with dancing and feasting. The country was under the chastity rite of “umchwasho” until 19 August 2005. Swaziland is also known for a strong presence in the handcrafts industry. The formalised handcraft businesses of Swaziland employ over 2,500 people, many of whom are women (per TechnoServe Swaziland Handcrafts Impact Study, February 2011). The products are unique and reflect the culture of Swaziland, ranging from housewares, to artistic decorations, to complex glass, stone, or wood artwork.

 

Education

A rural primary school in Swaziland. Education in Swaziland begins with pre-school education for infants, primary, secondary and high school education for general education and training (GET), and universities and colleges at tertiary level. Pre-school education is usually for children 5-year or younger after that the students can enroll in a primary school anywhere in the country. In Swaziland early childhood care and education (ECCE) centres are in the form of preschools or neighbourhood care points (NCPs). In the country 21.6% of preschool age children have access to early childhood education. Primary education in Swaziland begins at the age of six. It is a seven-year programme that culminates with an end of Primary school Examination [SPC] in grade 7 which is a locally based assessment administered by the Examinations Council through schools. Primary Education is from grade 1 to grade 7. The secondary and high school education system in Swaziland is a five-year programme divided into three years junior secondary and two years senior secondary. There is an external public examination (Junior Certificate) at the end of the junior secondary that learners have to pass to progress to the senior secondary level. The Examination Council of Swaziland (ECOS) administers this examination. At the end of the senior secondary level, learners sit for a public examination, the Swaziland General Certificate of Secondary Education (SGCSE) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) which is accredited by the Cambridge International Examination (CIE). A few schools offer the Advanced Studies (AS) programme in their curriculum. There are 830 public schools in Swaziland including primary, secondary and high schools. There also 34 recognized private schools with an additional 14 unrecognised. The biggest number of schools is in the Hhohho region. Education in Swaziland as of 2009 is free at primary level mainly first through the fourth grade and also free for orphaned and vulnerable children but not compulsory. In 1996, the net primary school enrollment rate was 90.8%, with gender parity at the primary level. In 1998, 80.5% of children reached grade five. Swaziland is home to a United World College. In 1963 Waterford school, later named Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa, was founded as southern Africa’s first multiracial school. In 1981 Waterford Kamhlaba joined the United World Colleges movement as the first and only United World College on the African continent. Adult and non-formal education centres are Sebenta National Institute for adult basic literacy and Emlalatini Development Centre which provides alternative educational opportunities for school children and young adults who have not been able to complete their schooling.

 

HIV/AIDS

The percentage of the population with HIV is over 25%. Swaziland is critically affected by the HIV and AIDS disease. As reported in the 2012 CIA World Factbook, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world (25.8% of all adults; more in other reports) and a life expectancy of 50 years. From another perspective, the last available World Health Organization data in 2002 shows that 64% of all deaths in the country were caused by HIV/AIDS. In 2009, an estimated 7,000 people died from AIDS-related causes, from a total population of approximately 1,185,000. This translates into an estimated 0.6% of the population dying from AIDS every year. Chronic illnesses that are the most prolific causes of death in the developed world account only for a minute fraction of deaths in Swaziland; for example, heart disease, strokes, and cancer cause fewer than 5% of deaths in Swaziland in total, compared to 55% of all deaths yearly in the US. In 2004, the Swaziland government acknowledged for the first time that it suffered an AIDS crisis, with 38.8% of tested pregnant women infected with HIV (see AIDS in Africa). The then Prime Minister Themba Dlamini declared a humanitarian crisis due to the combined effect of drought, land degradation, increased poverty, and HIV/AIDS. According to the 2011 UNAIDS Report, Swaziland is close to achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, defined as 80% coverage or greater. Estimates of treatment coverage range from 70% to 80% of those infected. Life expectancy had fallen from 61 years in 2000 to 32 years in 2009. Public expenditure for HIV/AIDS was at 4% of the GDP of the country, whereas private expenditure was at 2.3%. There were 16 physicians per 100,000 persons in the early 2000s. Infant mortality was at 57.19 per 1,000 in 2014, with the WHO showing that 47% of all deaths under 5 are caused by HIV/AIDS.

 

Languages

SiSwati also known as SwatiSwazi or Siswati) is a Bantu language of the Nguni Group, spoken in Swaziland and South Africa. It has 2.5 million speakers and is taught in schools. It is an official language of Swaziland (along with English) and one of the official languages of South Africa. English is the medium of communication in schools and in conducting business including the press. About 76,000 people in the country speak Zulu. Tsonga, which is spoken by many people throughout the region is spoken by about 19,000 people in Swaziland. Afrikaans is also spoken by some residents of Afrikaner descent.

 

Religion

Eighty-three percent of the total population adheres to Christianity, making it the most common religion in Swaziland. Anglican, Protestant and indigenous African churches, including African Zionist, constitute the majority of the Christians (40%), followed by Roman Catholicism at 20% of the population. On 18 July 2012, Ellinah Wamukoya, was elected Anglican Bishop of Swaziland, becoming the first woman to be a bishop in Africa. 15% of the population follows traditional religions; other non-Christian religions practised in the country include Islam (2%), the Bahá’í Faith (0.5%), and Hinduism (0.2%). There are 14 Jewish families. The Kingdom of Swaziland currently does not recognize non-civil marriages such as Islamic-rite marriage contracts.

 

Health

In 2015, Swaziland had an estimated life expectancy of 50.9 years. Tuberculosis is a significant problem, with an 18 percent mortality rate. Many patients have a multi-drug resistant strain and 83 percent are co-infected with HIV. There are roughly 14,000 new TB cases diagnosed each year. Mental illness is also a significant public health problem in Swaziland. The population is made more vulnerable to mental illness due to the prevalence of HIV and AIDS, sexual violence, and poverty. Additionally, not a lot of accurate information is widely known about mental illness in the country. Because of this, individuals with mental illness are also susceptible to stigma. Swaziland does not have an expansive mental health infrastructure. In fact, most healthcare is centralized in cities where approximately 20% of the population lives.There is one psychiatrist available for a population of roughly one million. The psychiatrist works at the National Psychiatric Referral Hospital located in Manzini and sees all of the psychiatric patients in the country, including patients housed at the hospital, but also prisoners, children, and people who commute from rural villages. Given Swaziland’s situation, many health-related non-governmental organizations, university programs, and other organizations work in the country on research and service projects related to health.

 

Wildlife

There are known to be 507 bird species in Swaziland, including 11 globally threatened species and four introduced species, and 107 mammal species endemic to Swaziland, including the critically endangered South-central black rhinoceros and seven other endangered or vulnerable species. Protected areas of Swaziland include seven nature reserves, four frontier conservation areas and three wildlife or game reserves. Hlane Royal National Park, the largest park in Swaziland, is rich in bird life, including white-backed vultures, white-headed, lappet-faced and Cape vultures, raptors such as martial eagles, bateleurs, and long-crested eagles, and the southernmost nesting site of the marabou stork.

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