The Swazi people are descendants of the Bantu who originated in the Benue-Cross Region in Cameroon. The Bantu migrations followed three key routes, the Western, the Central and the Eastern Routes. The Bantu Swazi travelled from Eastern African through Kenya, Tanzania and into present day Mozambique under the leadership of the King Dlamini 1 (Matalatala), King Ngwane. That is why they came to be known as the Dlamini and people of Ngwane (baka Ngwane) in the 1750s.
The king in the Swazi setting rules together with a Queen Mother who is supposed to be a biological mother to that king.

State Formation
The Swazi conquered the neighbouring chiefdoms and kingdoms characterised by the Sotho Nguni tribes (Emakhandzambili) such as the Magagula, Maseko, and Simelane etc. Diplomacy and the use of arranged marriages were used to create strategic alliances with neighbouring states. The use of regiments in warfare was more pronounced in the period ranging from the 1820s to the 1840s where the whole Southern African region underwent radical state building fuelled by the reign of King Shaka of the Zulu and the devastating effects of the Madlatule famine.

Swazi Monarchs
The Swazi were led by King Sobhuza 1 (Somhlolo) from 1815-1836. King Somhlolo saw a vision where he advised the Swazi nation to choose “Umculu” (book) rather than “Indilinga” (money) in the encounter with the white men.  This could partly explain why the University of Swaziland emblem is inscribed “Umculu sisekelo sesive” (education is a national asset/ foundation).
King Mswati 11, who reigned from 1839-1865, is credited as the greatest fighting Swazi king, and extended the boundaries of the country to incorporate places such as present day Johannesburg, Hammernskraal, Pretoria, the Kruger National Park, Mkhuze, Vrede etc.

King Ludvonga who ruled for a very short period, was succeeded by King Ndvungunye.

King Mbandzeni ascended the throne during the most difficult periods (1880-1889) in the history of the country. There was an influx of white settlers who came for different reasons such as missionary work, farming, mining, grazing rights. It was a clash of culture and traditions between the Boers/ British and the Swazi that resulted in the loss of land belonging to the Swazi nation, through concessions grants overseen by Thoephillus “Offy’ Shepstone Junior.

King Bhunu (Ngwane V) led Swaziland when the Transvaal Boer Republic was in control of the political affairs (1890-1899). The Transvaal Boer Republic’s administrative headquarters were located in Bremersdorp (present day Manzini), and were burnt down during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.The shopping mall is situated in the area where King Bhunu was once tried for ordering the execution of a suspected witch. King Bhunu died in 1899 the same year that King Sobhuza 11 was born.

From 1899-1921 Swaziland was under the leadership of Queen Regent LaboTsibeni Gwamile Mdluli. Gwamile was a strong willed woman who braved strong criticism and sent the young Sohuza to school in Lovedale College in South Africa.  In 1907 Gwamile established the Lifa Fund, where all able bodied Swazi people working within and outside the country contributed a portion of their wages to be used for purchasing back land expropriated through concession grants in 1880s. it is no wonder that one vocational institution (Gwamile Vocational Institute Matsapha) was named in honour of her contributions in shaping the history of the country.

King Sobhuza 11 was installed on 20 December 1921 as king and ruled up until he died in 1982, making him the longest reigning monarch. He led Swaziland during the colonial era and showed unwavering support for the British during the course of the Second World War, 1939-1945. Several projects created by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) included the establishment of the Mhlume Sugar estates which were meant to help the Swazi war veterans integrate into civilian lifestyles.

When the war ended negotiations with Britain for self rule were initiated, and finally culminated in the granting of Independence on 6th September 1968. King Sobhuza 11 was crowned as King and Ngwenyama of an Independent Swaziland through instruments handed over by George Thompson who represented the British Queen, at a colourful ceremony on the day at the Somhlolo National Stadium. Independent Swaziland now had its own national flag, national coat of arms and national anthem as reflected below:

The National Flag

Red                          = wars of the past
Yellow                       = mineral wealth and natural resources
Blue                         =peace and stability in Swaziland
Black & white shield    = whites and blacks living together in peace

The National Coat of Arms

Lion           = King
Elephant     = Queen Mother
Lidlabe       = Kings Crown
Siyinqaba    = United we stand
Black and white shield= Swazi nation (blacks and whites living in harmony)

The Swaziland National Anthem

“Nkulunkulu Mnikati wetibusiso temaSwati,
Siyatibonga tonkhe tinhlanhla
Sibonga iNgwenyama yetfu
Live netintsaba nemifula
Busisa tiphatsimandla takaNgwane
Nguwe wedvwa Somandla wetfu
Sinike kuhlakanipha lokungenabucili
Simise usicinise

Swazi Traditional Ceremonies

Incwala ceremony is normally celebrated in December to early January depending on the lunar cycles. It is a ceremony that marks the King’s opening of the feast of the fresh fruits of the year.  It also symbolises the king as a unifying factor among the Swazi nation and a symbol of power and authority. All people in Swaziland gather at the Royal Cattle Byre at Ludzidzini where song and dance is rendered as part of the celebrations of the New Year. The Incwala dates back to early 1800s.

Umhlanga (Reed Dance) is usually celebrated annually around August or early September by all young maidens in celebration of virginity and sanctity of girlhood. The young girls (imbali) are commissioned to cut the reeds in selected areas with the older ones travelling a  longer distance compared to the younger regiments. Traditional songs and dance are the order of the day with both the King and the Queen Mother  gracing the occasion. Umhlanga dates back to precolonial era. 

Lusekwane (Sacred shrub) is reserved for young boys (tingaja) who are not married. This tradional custom dates back to the pre-colonial era. These young boys are commissioned by the King to cut Lusekwane annually which is then used to fence around the traditional structures within the Royal residence. This ceremony is normally attended by multitudes of young boys from all parts of the country.

Sourced from the Swaziland National Archives



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