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History of Swaziland
 
 
 

Early History

The earliest inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by the Bantu tribes during Bantu migrations who hailed from the Great Lakes regions of Eastern Africa. Evidence of agriculture and iron use dates from about the 4th century and people speaking languages ancestral to current Sotho and Nguni languages began settling no later than the 11th century. The Bantu people known as the Swazis established iron-working and settled farming colonies in the 15th century after crossing the Limpopo river. They experienced great economic pressure from the rival Ndwandwe clans from the south.

The country derives its name from a later king, Mswati I. However, Ngwane is an alternative name for Swaziland and Dlamini remains the surname of the royal house, while Nkosi means "king". Scholarly history of Swaziland shows that independent chiefdoms and small kingdoms dominated by various clans were initially conquered and incorporated into the growing Ngwane kingdom ruled by members of the Dlamini clan sometime in the 18th and 19th centuries, long before British colonisation.

According to Swazi royalist tradition, these clans came to be classified in the Dlamini kingdom as the Emakhandzambile category of clans ("those found ahead" e.g. the Gamedze), meaning that they were on the land prior to Dlamini immigration and conquest, as opposed to the Bomdzabuko ("true Swazi") who accompanied the Dlamini kings, and the Emafikemuva ("those who came behind") who joined the kingdom later. Emakhandzambile clans initially were incorporated with wide autonomy, and often in part by granting them special ritual and political status, but the extent of their autonomy was drastically curtailed by King Mswati II, who attacked and subdued some of the clans in the 1850s.

British Colonialism

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 was also during Mswati's reign that the first whites, Transvaal Boers, settled in the country. Following Mswati's death, the Swazis reached agreements with British and South African Republic authorities over a range of issues, including independence, claims on resources by Europeans, administrative authority, and security, though the white parties later reneged on those agreements. Over Swazi protests, the South African Republic with British concurrence established incomplete colonial rule over Swaziland from 1894 to 1899, when they withdrew their administration with the start of the Anglo-Boer War. In 1902 British forces entered the territory, proclaiming British overrule and jurisdiction in 1903, initially as part of the Transvaal. In 1906 Swaziland was separated administratively when the Transvaal Colony was granted responsible government.

Early to Mid 20th Century

Throughout the colonial period from 1906 to 1968, Swaziland was governed by a resident commissioner who ruled according to decrees issued by the British High Commissioner for South Africa. Such decrees were formulated in close consultation with the resident commissioners, who in turn took informal and formal advice from white settler interests and the Swazi royalty. In 1921 the British established Swaziland's first legislative body – a European Advisory Council (EAC) of elected white representatives mandated to advise the British high commissioner on non-Swazi affairs. In 1944, the high commissioner both reconstituted the basis and role of the EAC, and, over Swazi objections, issued a Native Authorities Proclamation constituting the paramount chief or Ingwenyama and King to the Swazis, as the British called the king, as the native authority for the territory to issue legally enforceable orders to the Swazis subject to restrictions and directions from the resident commissioner. Under pressure from royal non-cooperation this proclamation was revised in 1952 to grant the Swazi paramount chief a degree of autonomy unprecedented in British colonial indirect rule in Africa.

In 1921, after more than 20 years of regency headed by Queen Regent Labotsibeni, Sobhuza II became Ngenyama (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.


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