Officially labeled as a monarchy, Swaziland is a small land-locked country located in Southern Africa. Surrounded by Mozambique to the northeast and South Africa along the remaining borders, Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa, only measuring 120 miles from North to South and 81 miles from East to West. While the country may be small in size, it still boasts a population of over 1.1 million people as reported by the 2015 estimated census.
History of Swaziland
The first human activity in the region dates back some 200,000 years ago, but it wasn’t until 1968 that the country gained independence. After being originally settled in by the Swazi, the British ruled the area from 1906 to 1968. The small and rich culture has gone through many transformations over the years, but one thing that has not changed is the tradition and culture of the area. While Swaziland offers amazing travel opportunities, wildlife preserves, and national wonders such as the Lubombo mountain range, the economy continues to struggle due to the recent withdrawal of textile exporters. In addition to the tough economic status of the this region, Swaziland is reported as having the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world. Combined with the poor economy, health risks, and current monarchic rule, much of the youth in Swaziland are beginning to shift their focus and demand changes to the country’s current status and traditional ways.
Politics of Swaziland
As of 2006, the Kingdom of Swaziland remains an absolute monarchy. Currently the head of the Swazi Royal Family is Mswati III. At the young age of 18, Mswati was crowned king on April 25, 1986. As of today, he continues to rule the country with full reign. The monarch has the power to appoint the Prime Minister and members of the cabinet, but his ability to rule by decree was removed in 2005. He also holds the power to veto legislature and dissolve the parliament at any time, making him the leading decision maker of the country.
The Swazi government consists of three branches, similar to the United States, but they operate in a completely different way. The three branches are the executive, legislative, and judicial branch. Here is a dissection of those who rule the different branches.
- The King
- The Prime Minister
- The Cabinet
- House of the Assembly
- Dual System
- Western Model and Laws
- Swaziland Laws and Customs
Over the years, Mswati has made some significant changes in the country, but those who oppose the changes claim that the benefits of these new laws are directly related to strengthening the traditional order, making many people wonder if the country is led by a monarchy, or being held in a totalitarian state.
To understand the scope of this debate, one needs to point out the main differences of a Monarchy and Totalitarian State.
- Government Lead by a King or Queen
- Monarch Heads the Government Decisions
- Monarch Decides Upon Civil Rights
- New Monarch Chosen through Lineage
- Government Lead by Dictator
- Dictator Heads the Government Decisions
- Government with no Individual Freedoms
- New Dictator Appointed by Previous Ruler
The similarities and differences between a full monarchy and a dictatorship really comes down to the single fact that a monarch has the power to grant civil liberties. So is Swaziland a Monarchy or Totalitarian State? Many say that with the recent changes Mswati has made, the country is heading more towards a Totalitarian State, while others still believe in the divine right of the King and hold true to a Monarchy rule.