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Official Name Kingdom of Swaziland/Umbuso we Swatini
Located South East: South Africa, Mozambique
Capital Mbabane
Head of State King Mswati III
King Mswati III
Area 17,365 sq km
Population 860,000
Growth rate 3.4%
Official language English & SiSwati
Currency Lilangeni
GNP per capita $1'400
Inflation 13%
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Swaziland is the smallest country in the southern hemisphere and has good wildlife reserves. In 1965 white rhino were re-established in the kingdom after an absence of 70 years, and since then there has been an ongoing battle to protect them from poachers. A happy postscript was the donation by the Taiwanese government in 1996 of enough money to purchase six black rhino.


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Swaziland is a small landlocked country with an economy based largely on agriculture and agro-industry. Sugar, citrus, and wood pulp are the major sectors, and asbestos and coal are the major minerals. Subsistence agriculture, practiced mainly in the Middleveld and Lubombo plateau, employs about 60 percent of the population. Soft drink concentrate, wood pulp, and sugar are the main exports. The Swazi economy is heavily dependent on South Africa from which it receives 83 percent of its imports and to which it sends 74 percent of its exports.


Modern-day Swaziland had been inhabited by humans for a long time; 110,000-year old human remains have been found in the area. However, the Swazi people inhabited the area only in the 19th century. While Mbabane started developing in the late 19th century, the actual city was founded in 1902, when the British established it as their administrative headquarters in Swaziland. Swaziland, a British protectorate from the 1880s until independence in 1968, is perhaps the nearest there is to a traditional African monarchy. Political parties were banned when the constitutions was suspended in 1973. King Mswati III was crowned in April 1986. In October 1986, the King appointed Sotsha Dlamini, as prime minister. An election of a new parliament was held in November 1987. The current prime minister, Sibusiso Dlamini, was appointed in July 1996. The majority of the people in the Kingdom are ethnically Swazi. Swaziland has a monarchy with a bicameral parliament consisting of the House of Assembly and the Senate. The King launched a review of the electoral system in 1991. This review resulted in the rejection of a multiparty system and recommended that the traditional electoral system tinkhundla be retained but reformed to allow for a two-stage legislative election, including a secret ballot at the second stage. The King may legislate by decree. The majority of Swazis are rural and tend to support the continuation of the monarchy, though in recent years there has been some movement toward reform.

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MBABANE, 3 Oct 3 2001: A Swazi media production company said King Mswati III should be fined a cow for taking a new fiancee and breaching the chastity vows he has imposed on the country's young women. King Mswati three weeks ago picked 17-year-old Nontsetselelo Magongo as his latest fiancee. He already has one other fiancee and seven wives. This came shortly after the royal household announced that it was reviving the Umchwasho chastity rite in order to preserve virginity and to combat the spread of AIDS. The custom calls on young women not to have sex for five years and to wear woollen tassels in a "don't touch me" warning to men. The production company Africa on Screen said maidens should defy the custom in protest at the king's action and that he should be made to pay the usual penalty for breaching the code; 150 dollars or a cow. The company's operations director Hanson Ngwenya told journalists: "As a nation we would expect young maidens from the Magongo family and her chiefdom to go to the king's palace and drop the woollen tassels to show that the king erred by engaging a teenage girl in a love affair when expected to uphold the custom." Few young women have been spotted wearing the tassels, however. Upon inquiry, several said they feared it would jeopardise their chances of getting married as their lovers were not prepared to wait for five years.

NHLANGANO, 15 September 2001: Swaziland is reviving the "umchwasho" chastity rite to preserve virginity among girls and combat AIDS, King Mswati III announced Friday to wild applause from 7,000 of his subjects, gathered to celebrate his 33rd birthday. Under the rite, the girls wear woollen "do not touch me" tassels of different colours depending on their ages. "A man who dares to touch a girl wearing a woollen tassel will find himself having the tassels thrown at him and the girls will then converge at the man's home, where they will demand an animal which they will feast on," the king told the gathering in Nhlangano. More than 50,000 people have died of AIDS in this small kingdom, which has a population of about one million.

Last updated: 6 August 2009

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