The Erosion Of Democracy
August 28, 2017
Strong men holding democracy at ransom
September 15, 2017

#StateOfTheNation: Swaziland

Independence Day: 6 September 1968
Type of Government: Monarchy
Head of State: King Mswati III (since 1986)
Population: 1.2 million
Capital City: Mbabane                                                             
Languages: Swati & English
Political Landscape: [1]


In 1973 Swaziland both banned political parties and suspended the Constitution; and continues to endure as the only monarchy in Southern Africa. Despite the ban, many political parties operate covertly or from other African countries. The Constitution has since been introduced in 2005. In 2016 the High Court of Swaziland ruled that the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition and Subversive Act are unconstitutional and violated freedom of expression and association[2]; but the King has appealed the ruling (pending outcome) and reiterated that parties will remain banned and not be allowed to participate in House of Assembly elections.


Through the decades various civil disobedience acts, protests and campaigns have been launched in the hopes of creating a democratic political environment and instilling human freedoms; however citizens and political aspirants remain oppressed.

Main opposition party: [3]

The Peoples’ United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)

Established in 1983 by students, trade unionists and academics in resistance to aristocracy, PUDEMO has since established itself as the largest dissent of the countries monarchy despite years of oppression, brutality and imprisonment by the government.


Key goals of party:[4]

•       Build a constitutional and accountable multiparty democracy

•       Promote economic growth

•       Develop a mixed market economy to empower citizens



The country’s currency is known as ‘Lilangeni’ and is under immense strain. A devastating drought in 2016 left the majority of the population – who rely on subsistence farming – to depend on international food aid. With agriculture sector suffering, so too did the textile industry after preferential trade with the USA was revoked in 2015 due to concerns over human rights violations of workers. [5]


Roughly 60% of the population live below the poverty line, and the economy relies heavily on South Africa for its main imports (85%) and exports (60%). Furthermore, the World Banks Doing Business (2017) report ranks Swaziland 111th of 190 countries; making it a challenging country to initiate and undertake business transactions. [6]


Human Rights: [7]


In a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), in addition to the limitations placed on Freedom of Association and Assembly – that require people give two weeks’ notice if they want to protest, and still face harassment once protesting – all published criticisms towards government and in media, is banned. There exists no true separation of judicial, executive and legislative branches of government, as all the power is held by the King.


The well-known traditions and culture of the country have been criticized by civil society activists as supressing women’s rights and contributing to continued practice of violence and sexual abuse of women and girls.



Health: [8]


With nearly 40% of the population living with HIV in 2003– Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV in the World.[9] The countries HIV response has however been commendable. Between 2011 and 2016, targeted antiretroviral suppression efforts through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has cut the HIV prevalence rate by almost half.





[1] EISA. 2008. Swaziland: Political party legislation. African Democracy Encyclopaedia Project. Available at: [Accessed on: 31 August 2017].

[2] Human Rights Watch. 2016. Swaziland: Events of 2016. Available at: S [Accessed on: 31 August 2017].

[3] Stuart. D. 2009. “Chapter 12: Swaziland” IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 472-473. Available at: [Accessed: 31 August 2017].

[4] Ibid

[5] Africa Report. 2016. Africa in 2017. Country Profiles: Swaziland. Issue no. 86.December 2016-January 2017.

[6] World Bank. April 2017. The World Bank in Swaziland. Available at: [Accessed on: 31 August2017].

[7] n.2

[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017. Country with world’s highest HIV prevalence is now controlling its HIV epidemic. Available at: [Accessed on: 31 August 2017].

[9] UNICEF. 2003. Swaziland. Available at: [Accessed on: 31August 2017].