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 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 1921, after more than 20 years of rule by Queen Regent Lobatsibeni,
Sobhuza II became Ngwenyama (lion) or head of the Swazi nation. In the
early years of colonial rule, the British 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 Peoples' 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.
The government also has been criticized by both domestic groups and
international observers for significant interference starting in late 2002
with the independence of the judiciary, Parliament and freedom of the press.
Swaziland has been without a Court of Appeals since the Courts resignation
en masse in December 2002 in protest of the governments refusal to abide
by the Courts decisions in two important rulings. Other related events
have been the resignation of the Chief Justice, the removal of two other
Justices of the High Court, interference by the Palace with Parliament,
and the official announcement of new censorship rules.