The Kingdom of Swaziland is located between South Africa and Mozambique. It has a population of over 1 million people, but the average life expectancy is less than 40 years due in large part to the AIDS epidemic. In 1999, Swaziland's King Mswati declared AIDS a national disaster.
Swaziland's king rules jointly with his mother, who is called the Indlovukazi ("Queen Mother" or "She Elephant)". The king traditionally has many wives. According to the Swaziland National Trust Commission, the king's first two wives, called ritual wives, are chosen for him from specific clans by councilors. After that, the king can choose his own wives.
When the king dies, the royal family meets to choose a new Indlovukazi, usually from among the late king's wives (but not his ritual wives). Traditionally, the woman who is chosen should have only one son, who in time becomes the new king.
The Modern Swazi Royal Family
Swaziland's Sobhuza II was born in 1899 and became paramount chief when he was a few months old, with his grandmother, Labotsibeni, as Queen Mother and regent. At that time Swaziland was a British protectorate. When it gained its independence in 1968, Sobhuza II became king. He remained king until his death in 1982, making his total reign -- more than 82 years -- one of the longest in world history.
After the death of King Sobhuza II, his son Makhosetive was chosen to be the next king. Due to an apparent dispute within the royal family, the late king's wife Dzeliwe Shongwe acted at first as regent, but was later replaced by replaced by Makhosetive's mother, Ntombi Latfwala. In 1986, Makhosetive was crowned King Mswati III with his mother as the Indlovukazi. They continue to reign today.
King Mswati, an absolute monarch, has been named one of the world's worst dictators by Parade Magazine. As of 2008, he is believed to have 13 wives. In 2002, a woman sued to try to prevent the king from marrying her then-teenaged daughter, Zena Mahlangu, saying the girl had been abducted, but the king nonetheless married Zena in 2004. Some of the king's other wives have reportedly left him.
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King Mswati of Swaziland
Photo by Jinty Jackson/AFP/Getty Images
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The Kingdom of Swaziland: Studies in Political History by D. Hugh Gillis. From the early stages of Swazi occupation of the present-day kingdom to the accession of Sobhuza II in 1921, this book recounts the story of a nation that maintained traditional customs and institutions in the face of a powerful European presence.
Kings, Commoners and Concessionaires by Philip Bonner is about the evolution and dissolution of the nineteenth-century Swazi state.
Historical Dictionary of Swaziland by Alan R. Booth. Includes information on Swazi kings and queens.
The Swazi, a South African Kingdom (Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology) by Hilda Kuper. Considers some of the problems facing traditional leaders.
Landscape Transformation and the Archaeology of Impact: Social Disruption and State Formation in Southern Africa by Warren R. Perry. Investigates the colonization of southeastern Africa from 1500 to 1900. Special attention is paid to the period of state formation in Swaziland.
The Rough Guide to South Africa: Lesotho and Swaziland by Tony Pinchuck, Barbara McCrea, Donald Reid, Greg Mthembu-Salter.
All the King's Animals: The Return of Endangered Wildlife to Swaziland by Cristina Kessler; foreword by King Mswati III. Children's book for ages 4 to 8 tells the story of a conservationist's work to save the endangered wildlife of Swaziland. Illustrated with color photographs.
These DVDs are formatted for North American audiences.
Without the King. A 2008 documentary about Swaziland, Africa's last absolute monarchy. Meet King Mswati's headstrong first wife Queen LaMbikiza, his teen rapper daughter Princess Sikhanyiso, King Mswati himself, and Swazi citizens plotting his downfall. In SiSwati with English subtltles.