Facts About the Culture, Geography, and History of Swaziland
Swaziland is a tiny southern African kingdom that is virtually surrounded by South Africa except the eastern border that it shares with Mozambique. The following are the 12 captivating facts we have compiled to help you have a glimpse of this tiny country.
12. Swaziland is the smallest country in Africa.
By African standards, Swaziland is a micro-State. It is the size of a typical province in most countries of the mainland Africa. It is smaller than Guateng, the smallest province in South Africa. It is area is just 17,364 square kilometers.
11. Swaziland is currently the only country in Africa not practicing multiparty democracy and is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies.
After gaining independence from Britain, Swaziland had a parliamentary democracy. However, the King abolished the parliamentary democracy considering it as against the tradition of the Swazi people. In Swaziland, the king rules by decree.
10. Swaziland game rangers are allowed to shoot to kill anyone suspected of poaching.
Swaziland relies heaving on safari tourism. Its wildlife is the leading foreign exchange earner. As such, the government is overzealous in its protection. To ward off poachers by inflicting punitive pain on their endeavor, game rangers are authorized to shoot-to-kill poachers. The game rangers are immune from prosecution when they execute the shoot-to-kill order.
9. Swaziland’s Hlane Royal National Park is home to to the largest population of nesting vultures in Africa.
Formerly a private royal hunting ground, Hlane Royal National Park is a nesting heaven. It holds Africa’s largest population of nesting vultures.
8. The mountains in Swaziland’s Malolotja Native Reserve are among the oldest in the world at 3.6 billion years.
Southern Africa not only holds some of the world’s oldest fossils, including those of dinosaurs, but also some of the oldest landscape formations. In Swaziland, the mointains in Swaziland’s Malolotja Native Reserve take cue from the Table Mountains in Johannesburg as among the oldest mountains in the world, clocking over 3.6 billion years old.
7. Swaziland’s King Mswati II introduced Christianity to the country by inviting missionaries to come and bring the “word” to his people.
As part of implementing the dream of former King Sobhuza I, his heir King Mswati II invited Christian Missionaries into Swaziland to evangelize the Gospel to his people. This is probably one of the few countries in Africa where Christian Missionaries came by invitation rather than by invasion.
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6. The red feathers of the lourie bird are a sign of belonging to the royal family of Swaziland and can only be worn by members of the royal family.
Lourie bird is considered a bird of royalty. Thus, its spectacular feathers are considered royal. As such, only matching royal beings are allowed to wear them. The rest of the people are strictly prohibited.
5. Traditionally, the family of a Swazi bride will receive a payment from the groom’s family, usually in the form of cattle.
Cattle are the main form of bride price in most communities of Sub-Saharan Africa. Swaziland is no exception. However, in a mostly traditional and impoverished country like Swaziland, cattle are considered as symbol of wealth. Thus, any family that intend to have a daughter-in-law must raise a Lobola (brideswealth, or simply cattle for dowry).
4. The government of Swaziland has developed a “Programme of Action” to reach First World Status by the year 2022.
While reaching a First World status by 2022 is certainly a mirage for a country whose 70% of the population lives in abject poverty and suffers malnutrition and HIV/AIDS epidemic, this has not deterred this Kingdom from aggressively pursuing this dream that seems half-a-century late.
3. About 7,000 Swaziland peoples die from HIV per year—600% more than the world average (1,000 deaths per year).
Swaziland overtook Botswana as the country with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world. It is estimated that about 27% of the Swazi population is ravaged by this epidemic. This translates to about 210,000 people out of its population of 1.2 million people being infected.
A relevant read: Most common diseases in Africa
2. Swaziland widows traditionally shave their heads as a sign of mourning.
Mourning the death of a loved one is usually a long grieving period in Africa, only interrupted by exigencies of modern work requirements. Nonetheless, symbolizing the grieving period is still reflected in most parts of Africa by shaving hair. Swaziland still practices this tradition almost in its ancient form.
1. In 2002, the Swaziland government faced international criticism when it spent $50 million USD on a luxury jet for the king while over two-thirds of its population lives below the poverty line.
Buying a luxury jet for the King capped the opulence that characterizes the King’s way of life. The King virtually owns everything in Swaziland and the subjects seems to be some kind of domestic servants of his household. A lot of the State resources are dedicated to serving the King’s expansive family and its opulence while vast population suffers poverty, ignorance, disease and malnutrition.
Swaziland is the last absolute monarch in Africa. This tiny kingdom still holds to much of its rich traditional lifestyle. Paying a visit to Swaziland not only exposes you to this unique culture but also a tour to some of the most spectacular wildlife in the world.