Ever since Swaziland gained independence from
colonial power Britain in 1968, the country's history
has been characterized by fierce contradictions between
royalist traditionalists and groups that want to
democratize the kingdom. After the Democratic hangings
gained some success in a 1973 election, the king
dissolved the parliament and introduced a party ban.
Since King Mswati III was crowned in 1986, opposition to
the absolute monarchy has grown in strength.
During the first half of the 20th century, the area
of today's Swaziland was a British protectorate, but
the royal dynasty Dlamini was allowed to remain on the
throne. The Swazis' liberation from the British took off
seriously in 1962 when the radical Labor Party
Ngwanese National Liberation Congress (NNLC)
was formed. The NNLC sought to make the area a
constitutional monarchy. The Swazi king Sobhuza II
responded by forming a royal and traditionalist party,
the Imbokodvo National Movement (
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Swaziland. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
In preparation for Swaziland independence in 1968, a
parliamentary election was held. The electoral system
was designed so that almost all seats in Parliament went
to the INM. It was the start of decades of
contradictions between royalist traditionalists and
groups that want to democratize the country -
contradictions that characterize the country's politics
In the 1973 election, the NNLC won three seats in
parliament, causing the king to dissolve the assembly
and ban all parties. Instead, a system was introduced
where traditional chiefs (tinkhundla) ruled
locally, while the king retained supreme power.
The democracy movement is growing in strength
After the death of King Sobhuza II in 1982, a
protracted power struggle broke out within the royal
family. It ended in 1986 when the young king Mswati III
was crowned. The new king was also unwilling to let go
of power. The ban on political parties persisted, but at
the same time the opposition grew. Several organizations
were formed that essentially served as political
parties. Most important was the People's United
Democracy Movement (Pudemo)
and its youth association Swayoco. A
strong force within the opposition was also the trade
union central organization SFTU, which
had a close connection with its South African
As a remission of the democracy movement in 1987, the
king arranged elections to appoint a group of people who
would in turn appoint members to the lower house of
parliament (the National Assembly).
This gave local councils great influence over the
composition of Parliament. The turnout was low. Pudemo
demanded that all MPs be elected in general and direct
The following years were marked by recurring strikes
and demonstrations. The protests were turned down by the
police, but criticism of the king and the undemocratic
system increased. In 1992, the King decided to increase
the seats of the National Assembly to 65, of which 55
would be elected in general direct elections. However,
the candidates would be nominated by the local councils.
The opposition was dissatisfied and adhered to the
demands of multi-party systems and democracy. The king
then dissolved the National Assembly and declared that
he alone would rule the country through decrees.
In 1993, elections to the National Assembly were
still held under the new system, but participation was
low. Violent protests erupted and unions announced
strikes. The king eventually appointed a council to
formulate a proposal for a new constitution, but the
council was dominated by kingly rulers. This led to a
new wave of protest.
In the 1998 National Assembly elections,
participation was again low. The opposition merged into
the Alliance's Swaziland Democratic
Alliance (SDA), whose demonstrations
were turned down by police. In 2001, the King introduced
a state of emergency to quell dissatisfaction.
In the years 2002 and 2003, Swaziland was severely
affected by malnutrition and nearly half a million
people lacked food. Several donors withdrew their
promises of relief when it became known that King Mswati
III had ordered a luxury private jet in the midst of the
Growing demands for democracy from the outside world
and domestic opinion led to the country in 2006 adopting
a new constitution which to some extent emphasizes the
civil liberties and rights. In practice, however, the
Constitution has not entailed any significant changes in
the political system (see Political system).
Constitutional criticism is rejected
The Supreme Court rejects the criticism leveled by the opposition to a
proposal for a new constitution.
Great demonstrations against the monarchy
Thousands of people are demonstrating in the country's largest city of
Manzini in protest of the absolute monarchy and demanding democracy.
Protest actions for democracy
On the anniversary of the introduction of absolute monarchy in 1973, protest
actions for democracy are held. Pudemo supporters are trying to block border
crossings into South Africa. Six of them are indicted for manslaughter.