Artifacts indicating human activity dating back to the early Stone Age have been found in the Kingdom of Eswatini (known as Swaziland for most of its history). Prehistoric rock art paintings date from c. 25,000 B.C. and continuing up to the 19th century can be found in various places around the country.
The country now derives its name from a later king named Mswati II. Jn, named for Ngwane III, is an alternative name for Swaziland the surname of whose royal house remains Nkosi Dlamini. Nkosi literally means "king". Mswati II was the greatest of the fighting kings of Swaziland, and he greatly extended the area of the country to twice its current size. The Emakhandzambili clans were initially incorporated into the kingdom with wide autonomy, often including grants of special ritual and political status. The extent of their autonomy however was drastically curtailed by Mswati, who attacked and subdued some of them in the 1850s. With his power, Mswati greatly reduced the influence of the Emakhandzambili while incorporating more people into his kingdom either through conquest or by giving them refuge. These later arrivals became known to the Swazis as Emafikamuva. The clans like the Mbokanes and others who accompanied the Dlamini kings were known as the Bemdzabuko or true Swazi.
The autonomy of the Swaziland nation was influenced by British and Dutch rule of southern Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1881 the British government signed a convention recognising Swazi independence despite the Scramble for Africa that was taking place at the time. This independence was also recognised in the convention of 1884. However, because of controversial land/mineral rights and other concessions, Swaziland had a triumviral administration in 1890 following the death of King Mbandzeni in 1889. This government represented the British, the Dutch republics and the Swazi people. Finally, in 1894, a convention placed Swaziland under the South African Republic as a protectorate. This continued under the rule of Ngwane V until the outbreak of the Second Boer War in October 1899. King Ngwane V died in December 1899 during incwala after the outbreak of the Boer war when his successor, Sobhuza, was only four months old. Swaziland was indirectly involved in the war with various skirmishes between the British and the Boers occurring in the country until 1902.
In 1903, after British victory in the Anglo-Boer war, Swaziland became a British protectorate. Much of its early administration (for example, postal services) being carried out from South Africa until 1906 when the Transvaal colony was granted self-government. Following this, Swaziland was partitioned into European and non-European (or "native reserves") areas with the former being two thirds of the total land. Sobhuza's official coronation was in December 1921 after the regency of Labotsibeni after which he led an unsuccessful deputation to the Privy council in London in 1922 regarding the issue of the land. In the period between 1923 and 1963, Sobhuza established the Swazi Commercial Amadoda which was to grant licences to small businesses on the Swazi reserves and also established the Swazi National School to counter the dominance of the missions in education. His stature grew with time and the Swazi royal leadership was successful in resisting the weakening power of the British administration and the incorporation of Swaziland into the Union of South Africa.
The constitution for independent Swaziland was promulgated by Britain in November 1963 under the terms of which legislative and executive councils were established. This development was opposed by the Swazi National Council (liqoqo). Despite such opposition, elections took place and the first Legislative Council of Swaziland was constituted on 9 September 1964. Changes to the original constitution proposed by the Legislative Council were accepted by Britain and a new constitution providing for a House of Assembly and Senate was drawn up. Elections under this constitution were held in 1967. Swaziland was briefly a Protected State until Britain granted it full independence in 1968.
Following the elections of 1973, the constitution of Swaziland was suspended by King Sobhuza II who thereafter ruled the country by decree until his death in 1982. At this point Sobhuza II had ruled Swaziland for 83 years, making him the longest ruling monarch in history. A regency followed his death, with Queen Regent Dzeliwe Shongwe being head of state until 1984 when she was removed by Liqoqo and replaced by Queen Mother Ntombi Twala. Mswati III, the son of Ntombi, was crowned king on 25 April 1986 as King and Ingwenyama of Swaziland.
The earliest known inhabitants of the region were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by the kashian hunter tribe during Bantu migrations who hailed from the Great Lakes regions of eastern and central Africa. Evidence of agriculture and iron use dates from about the 4th century and people speaking languages ancestral to current Sotho and Nguni languages began settling no later than the 11th century. The Swazi settlers, then known as the Ngwane (or bakaNgwane), before entering Swaziland had been settled on the banks of the Pongola River and prior to that in the area of the Tembe River near present-day Maputo. Continuing conflict with the Ndwandwe people pushed them further north, with Ngwane III establishing his capital at Shiselweni at the foot of the Mhlosheni hills. Under Sobhuza I, the Ngwane people eventually established their capital at Zombodze in the heartland of present-day Swaziland. In this process, they conquered and incorporated the long established clans of the country known to the Swazi as Emakhandzambili.
The early Swazis (bemdzabuko) lived around the present day Tembe River near Maputo, Mozambique. Dlamini I was able to increase his followers by conquering many clans along the Lubombo after departure from Tembe.
As part of the Nguni expansion southwards, the Swazis crossed the Limpopo River and settled in southern Tongaland (today in southern Mozambique near Maputo) in the late fifteenth century. The Ngwane people are recorded as having entered the present territory of Swaziland around the year 1600.
Thereafter during the leadership of Ngwane III Swazis settled present day Swaziland. These Swazis first settled north of the Pongola River. The Ngwane Kingdom was thus established during the rule of Ngwane III from around 1745 until 1780. The early Swazi people emigrated from the Lubombo mountains where Swazi rulers were established, to the banks of the Pongola River. The leader, Ngwane III established the Swazi settlements here near the Ndwandwe Kingdom. Swazis were in constant conflict with their neighbors, the Ndwandwes. The capital of Ngwane III was in Southern Swaziland in Shiselweni at the foot of the Mhlosheni Mountains near Nhlangano and Mahamba. Swazis established a polity based on Kingship accompanied by Queen Mothers and during the minority of a crown prince a Queen Regent. Thus when Ngwane died, LaYaka Ndwandwe became Queen Regent until Ndvungunye became the King. The kingship of Ndvungunye continued the order established by Ngwane III from 1780 until 1815 when he was killed by lightning. He was succeeded by Ngwane IV after the regency of Queen Regent Lomvula Mndzebele. Ngwane IV was also known as Sobhuza I and Somhlolo a revered king of Swaziland. Sobhuza continued to expand the territory of Swaziland.
The conflict of Swaziland and the Ndwandwe kingdom led Somhlolo (also known as Sobhuza I and Ngwane IV) to move his capital from Zombodze in Shiselweni to the centre of Swaziland at another kraal called Zombodze. Somhlolo who became king in 1815 consolidated the order of the Ngwane state by incorporating the Emakhandzambili clans into his kingdom adding to the Bemdzabuko or true Swazi. Somhlolo was a strategic leader between 1815 and 1839 a period including the mfecane period of Shaka Zulu a Zulu illegitimate child of Senzangakhona who created his kingdom from the Mtetwa polity established by Dingiswayo. Sobhuza used his diplomatic skills to avoid conflict with Shaka by allying with him when it suited him. As a result, Swaziland was left unaffected by the mfecane wars. Somhlolo was succeeded in 1839 by his son Mswati II who is known as the greatest of the Swazi fighting kings.
Mswati inherited an area which extended as far as present day Barberton in the north and included the Nomahasha district in the Portuguese territory of Mozambique. Mswati continued to expand Swazi territory and the clans added to the nation were considered Emafikamuva. During his reign the territory of Swaziland was expanded northward and his capital was at Hhohho in the northern part of Swaziland. Mswati improved the military organisation of the regiments in Swaziland. His regiment was Inyatsi and he danced the sacred incwala at Hhohho instead of the common Ezulwini valley as his predecessors. Mswati was a powerful king who attacked other African tribes to acquire cattle and captives. Within Swaziland, his force was used to limit the power of the Emakhandzambili chiefs. Mswati made land grants in 1855 to the Lydenburg Republic though the wording of the sale is vague. The Boers at the time were fairly weak and could not act upon the land concession. Mswati continued to fight with other African tribes across the land and beyond in areas such as Zoutpansberg and Ohrigstad. His death in 1868 brought about an end to the conquest by the Swazi kings. Mswati was succeeded by Ludvonga, however he died in his youth and as a result Mbandzeni was chosen by the Swazis National Council instead, and King Mbandzeni appointed Chief Manzini Mbokane as one of his leading tribal advisors. Chief Manzini Mbokane was a father of Ntengu Mbokane, and Chief Mbokane was the leader of the King's Advisory Council, which was later called Liqoqo.
Swazi contact with European began when Dutch Trekboers reached the western hinterland of Swaziland in the 1840s. By 1845 about 300 Boer families had settled in Ohristad with more families in Lydenburg. Two deeds of sale dated 1846 and 1855 indicate the sale of Swazi territory to the Dutch republics for a sum of 170 cattle. These deeds at face value seemed to surrender the whole of the Swazi territory to the Dutch. Following the death of King Mswati II in 1868, a period of regency followed with Queen Regent Tsandzile Ndwandwe until 1875. The South African Republic in 1868 attempted to annex Swaziland by a proclamation. Mbandzeni, following the death of his half brother, the crown prince Ludvonga in 1872, was chosen by inkhosikati LaMgadlela Khumalo as her adopted son and hence a crown prince. However threats existed from prince Mbilini who had married one of Ntengu Mbokane's daughters, and Mbandzeni's half brother and one of the sons of Mswati who was a pretender to the throne and allied with the Zulu King Cetshwayo. However, he never became successful. The British prevented any attacks from Cetshwayo who had been crowned by Sir Theophilus Shepstone. In addition, the Transvaal Boers wanted to assert their authority over Swaziland by supporting Mbandzeni. Indeed, in Mbandzeni's coronation Rudolf, the Resident Magistrate of Ladysmith and former landdrost of Utrecht in the company of about 350 burghers and 70 wagons, attended the ceremony. During this period, the Transvaal was annexed by Britain. In 1879, the same year as the Zulu war, Mbandzeni aided the British who were now controlling the Transvaal to defeat Sekhukhune and dismantle his kingdom. In return for his assistance, Swaziland's independence was to be guaranteed perpetually and Swaziland would be protected from Boer and Zulu encroachment.
In 1881 the Pretoria convention establishing the British suzerainty over the Transvaal State, article 24 guaranteed the independence of Swaziland, its boundary and Swazi people in their country as recognised by both Britain and the Transvaal. Under this convention, the Swazi territory was reduced in size, leaving Swazi people as residents of the Transvaal territory in what is today Mpumalanga province in South Africa. The London Convention of 1884's article XII continued to recognise Swaziland as an independent country with Mbandzeni as its King. However, in the years between 1885 and 1889, as more concessions were granted, the population of Europeans in Swaziland increased. Unease with some concessionaires led to Mbandzeni to request British intervention. In addition to this, Boer encroachments especially in 1887 increased the intensity of these requests. The situation in the country continued to deteriorate as some raids, cattle rustling and stealing of children from Swazi villages by Boers continued. Britain refused intervention on the grounds that the was[clarification needed] presence of European residence not of British extraction and concessions held at the time by the South African Republic in areas such as tax collection, postal services which should be in the control of a State government.
On 18 December 1889 after Mbandzeni's death, the Swazi Government, represented by the Queen Regent Tibati Nkambule and the Swazi Council made a proclamation. In this appointing Sir Theophilus Shepstone and two other officers representing the South African Republic and Britain and a provisional council to oversee administration of the country especially concession and affairs of European residents of the country. A concessions court was established to see which concessions were valid and which were dubious. The organic proclamation was followed by the London convention of 1894 which settled the matter over Swaziland. The Swazi proclamation supporting this convention was resisted for a while since its proposal in 1893 and was signed by the Queen Regent and Swazi Council in December 1894. In this convention, the status of Swaziland, its people and the Kings were recognised as in the 1884 convention. However, for the administrative affairs of Swaziland it would be a protected state of the Transvaal republic with guarantees on the rights of Swazi people in their country and their system of governance. This administration, led by Krogh, went on until the Anglo Boer war started in 1899. Ngwane V who had been chosen as crown prince following Mbandzeni's death in 1889 was crowned in 1895 after the London Convention. In 1898, he was allegedly responsible for the death of his advisor Mbaba Nsibandze and two of his aides. In response he was charged with the crime and during this time he fled to British Zululand returning on guaranteed for his safety. On his return he was charged with a lesser crime of public disturbance and was fined 500 pounds. In addition, his judicial powers were reduced. The next year in October 1899 the Anglo Boer War began. This led to the discontinuity of Transvaal administration of Swaziland's affairs. Ingwenyama Ngwane V, however ruled until December of that year when he died while dancing the sacred incwala. During a period of concessions preceded by famine around 1877 some of the tindvunas from within Swaziland like Mshiza Maseko and Ntengu kaGama Mbokane the son of Chief Manzini Mbokane were given permission by King Mbandzeni to relocate to farms towards the Komati River, Mshiza Maseko later settled in a place called eLuvalweni, where he was later buried. It is said that Mshiza's son Nyovane Maseko, was later appointed indvuna by Nandzi the wife of Mswati II after Mbandzeni had died, after his appointment he established the Nhleleleka settlement and invited the younger Mogajane Mbokane the son of Ntengu Mbokane to be one of the tindvunas in the settlement he had created.
Swaziland was indirectly involved in the Second Boer War (1899–1902). The beginning of the conflict found it administrated by the South African Republic, with the colonial headquarters set at Bremersdorp. In September, 1899, with war considered imminent, the colonists started evacuating the area. Ngwane V of Swaziland (Bhunu) was informed that the area would be left in his care during the absence of the white residents. The Swaziland Police under Sgt Opperman started practicing for war while issuing rifles and ammunition to remaining burghers. On 4 October 1899, Special Commissioner Krogh issued an official notice of evacuation for "all white inhabitants" with the exception of burghers eligible for active service. Most of the British subjects were escorted towards the border with Mozambique, women and other South African civilians were left heading for various destinations. People with dual nationality were still subject to the draft, though unwilling to fight against their own people. Several of them escaped towards Mozambique or the Colony of Natal.
It was not long before skirmishes involved the Swaziland forces. On 28 October 1899, the newly formed Swaziland Commando unit moved against a British police post at Kwaliweni. The South African unit counted about 200 burghers, while the outpost only had 20 men. Bhunu managed to warn the police post of the approaching attack. The police retreated towards Ingwavuma, seat of a magistrate. The Commandos burned the abandoned post and a nearby shop to the ground. Then Joaquim Ferreira led them towards Ingwavuma. The village was not better guarded and had to also be evacuated. The Swaziland Commando burned it to the ground, while the magistrate and his people escaped to Nongoma.
Meanwhile, the Swazi people had been warned by Piet Joubert to remain calm and not involve themselves in the conflict. Bhunu instead found himself unrestricted from colonial authorities for the first time. He soon felt free to settle old scores with political enemies. News of the violent deaths of diplomat Mnkonkoni Kunene and several others in time reached the Boer forces involved in the Siege of Ladysmith. Several of the dead had close ties to the colonial authorities. Joubert had to assure worried commanders that Swaziland was not turning against them. Indeed, spies reported that Bhunu feared he had been bewitched. He was striking against whomever he suspected of the deed. On 10 December 1899, Bhunu died due to a serious illness. He had blamed it on sorcery, though contemporaries suspect it was alcohol-induced. His mother Labotsibeni Mdluli became regent. She set about eliminating the surviving advisors and favourites of Bhunu.
Swazi regiments were roaming the country during the internal conflicts. The South African authorities were worried that the violence could expand towards the south-western border of Swaziland, where Boer farms were cultivated by women and children. They had the farms evacuated and the population transferred to Piet Retief. The farmers from Piet Retief, Wakkerstroom and their vicinities had made a practice of trekking their ship into Swaziland for winter grazing. In January 1900, Francis William Reitz, the State Secretary of the South African Republic, started issuing orders discouraging any sheep-herders from entering Swaziland. On 18 April 1900, any such entry was forbidden. The Swaziland Commando were by that point far from their initial home base, fighting along the Tugela River.
The British had their own concerns about Swaziland. They suspected that supplies from Mozambique could be smuggled to the Boers through Swaziland. Queen-regent Labotsibeni was however attempting to maintain neutrality in the wider conflict, pre-occupied with securing the throne. Her grandson Sobhuza II of Swaziland was underage and there were other viable candidates for the throne among the House of Dlamini, in particular Prince Masumphe. Masumphe was a cousin of Bhunu and had been a rival candidate for the throne since 1889. His line of the family maintained close relations with the Boers, the Prince himself having been educated at Pretoria. By May, 1900, the Queen was worried that the Boers would intervene against her in case of a succession dispute. She opened communications with the restored magistrate of Ingwavuma, arranging to flee to his area if needed.
Her messages were passed to the government of Natal and from there to Cape Town, the capital of the Cape Colony. A reply by Johannes Smuts assured her that the British had not forgotten about the Swazi and British representatives would reliably return to Swaziland at an early date. The message might have reflected Smuts' own ambitions but his authority on such matters was rather questionable. But Frederick Roberts, Baron Roberts, a high-ranking military officer, was also convinced to start diplomatic contacts with the Queen. His representatives were to persuade the queen-regent of three things: first, the need to prevent the Boers from occupying the mountains of the area; secondly, the necessity of formally appealing for British protection; and third, to make clear that the indiscriminate murders in Swaziland would have to end.
The British contacts with the Swazi played a role in advance of their siege of Komatipoort, a nearby South African stronghold. In September 1900, once the town fell, the British were able to capture Barberton and its area. A number of Boers fled into Swaziland, only to have the Swazi disarm them and confiscate their cattle. The end of South African presence in the area left open the question of what to do with Swaziland. Smuts had been campaigning since May to convince the British authorities to place Swaziland under their administration. By September, Smuts had gained some support from civil authorities but not from military ones, since Roberts did not want to devote any of his forces to an invasion or occupation of the area. Nevertheless, Smuts attempted some diplomatic contacts with the Swazi, which were not particularly successful. The individual Smuts met for discussions refused to give any information on the internal affairs of Swaziland or Boer activities.
The fall of Komatipoort directly resulted in increased importance of Swaziland for the Boers. To maintain their communications with diplomatic and trade contacts in Lourenço Marques, Mozambique, the Boers had to send messengers through Swaziland. This was difficult, since British forces were allowed to pass through certain Swazi areas. By November 1900, the Queen was able to assure both Roberts and Smuts that she "was doing her best to drive Boers out of her country." A few armed burghers and their African allies, hostile to her government, were still active at times.
On November 29, 1900, Roberts was relieved of his command. His replacement was Herbert Kitchener, Baron Kitchener of Khartoum. By late December, Smuts contacted the military secretary office of Kitchener concerning the Swaziland situation. Smuts had secured the position of Resident Commissioner of Swaziland, though the British had no actual authority over the area. He attempted to convince Kitchener it was time to establish a permanent military presence in Swaziland and put Smuts in charge of the area. Kitchener had a different view. Starting his own correspondence with Labotsibeni, Kitchener insisted on three points: first, the Swazi were still required to not take part in the war; second, no British forces would be sent into Swaziland unless the area faced a Boer invasion; and third, the Swazis were now directly under the authority of the British Crown, owing their loyalty to Victoria of the United Kingdom.
In December 1900–January 1901, there were reports that retreating Boers were attempting to flee through Swaziland. Eight British columns were sent to either force the Boer commandos to surrender or flee to Swaziland. A certain column under Horace Smith-Dorrien proceeded all the way to the Swaziland border, managing to capture several Boer wagons and large numbers of cattle and sheep on February 9, 1901. Most of the captured Boers were sent to the concentration camp of Volksrust. On February 11, another column under Edmund Allenby was positioned at the southern border of Swaziland. On February 14, Smith-Dorrien's forces reached Amsterdam. There he was contacted by envoys of the Queen-regent, requesting aid in driving the Boers off her land. In response, the Imperial Light Horse and the Suffolk Regiment were sent into Swaziland.
Joined by armed Swazis, the two regiments were able to capture about 30 Boers in an initial skirmish. However heavy rains soon slowed their advance through the country. On February 28, 1901, 200 other men of the British mounted infantry entered Swaziland. Under Lt. Col. Henry, this force managed to locate and capture the transport convoy of the Piet Retief Commandos. About 65 Boers were captured in the operation. The remnants of the Commandos retreated towards the southern border of Swaziland, only to be captured by the British forces stationed there. By early March, Smith-Dorrien noted that the Swazis were pillaging Boer residences. By this time, Allenby had reached Mahamba and set up camp there, Henry was pursuing another Boer wagon convoy and Queen-regent Labotsibeni was ordering her Impis to clear their land from the Boers. Henry eventually managed to return to Derby with several prisoners, while Allenby and his forces reached the vicinity of Hlatikulu. The burthers had to limit themselves to "the hills of southwestern Swaziland".
Surviving accounts from the Devonshire Regiment indicate that the Swazis were acting as "a ninth column, commanded by the Queen of the Swazis." On March 8, 1901, remnants of the Piet Retief Commandos, accompanied by women and children, were attacked by forces supposedly under Chief Ntshingila Simelano. The latter consisted of about 40 men, including two riflemen. Thirteen Burghers and one African guide were killed, several wounded, and the others were scattered. Some of the survivors later surrendered to the 18th Hussars. Ntshingila later denied any involvement in the massacre. In any case, the incident terrified several other Boers. Between March 8 and 11, about 70 burghers and various women and children chose to surrender to Allenby rather than face the Swazis. The British nevertheless warned Labotsibeni to cease further massacres.
On 11 April 1901, Louis Botha corresponded with Kitchener, complaining that British officers were inducing the Swazis to fight against the Boers. Claiming the result was the indiscriminate murders of Burghers, women and children by Swazi commandos. Allenby attributed the killings partly to Swazi anxiety to counter Boer incursions into their territory and partly to their fear of Boer reprisals. That is what the Boers would do when the British eventually left. Allenby himself refused to allow large numbers of armed Swazis to join his column, though he still used a few of them as guides. Smuts finally entered Swaziland during this month, though unable to establish his authority over any British forces.
The presence of regular British troops allowed the queen-regent to present to them her concerns over an irregular unit, "Steinaecker's Horse." Created early in the war as a unit of adventurers and mercenaries under British command, they were well known for looting Boer property. With the Boer increasingly impoverished, however, they had turned their attention to the cattle of the Swazi. Labotsibeni complained to both sides that this unit consisted of common robbers occupying Bremersdorp. Botha responded by sending a Commando unit against the Horse, with orders to avoid antagonizing the Swazi in any way. The Swazi National Council agreed to let them pass. Between July 21 and 23, 1901, the Ermelo Commandos succeeded in forcing most of the "Steinaecker's Horse" forces to retreat, capturing about 35 men, killing or wounding a few and burning Bremersdorp to the ground.
Both the British and the Boers continued to have access to Swaziland with occasional skirmishes occurring. On November 8, 1901, for example, the 13th Hussars captured 14 burghers near Mahamba. The skirmishes ended in February 1902 with the defeat of the final Boer unit in Swaziland.
Throughout the colonial period from 1906 to 1968, Swaziland was governed by a resident commissioner who ruled according to decrees issued by the British High Commissioner for South Africa. Such decrees were formulated in close consultation with the resident commissioners, who in turn took informal and formal advice from white settler interests and the Swazi royalty. In 1907 during the residency of Robert Coryndon, Swazi land was partitioned into a third for Swazi nation land or reserves and the remaining two thirds into crown and commercial land for European occupation. The partition was carried out in 1909 with Swazis living in European areas given five year to vacate the land.
|1902–1907||Francis Enraght-Moony||b. 1865 – d. 1943|
|1907–1916||Robert Thorne Coryndon||b. 1870 – d. 1925|
|Jan 1917 – Oct 1928||Sir De Symons Montagu George Honey||b. 1872 – d. 1945|
|Oct 1928 – 1 Apr 1935||Thomas Ainsworth Dickson||b. 1881 – d. 1935|
|Oct 1935 – Nov 1937||Allan Graham Marwick||b. 1877 – d. 1966|
|Nov 1937 – 30 Sep 1942||Charles Lamb Bruton||b. 1890 – d. 1969|
|30 Sep 1942 – 25 Aug 1946||Eric Kellett Featherstone||b. 1896 – d. 1965|
|25 Aug 1946 – 1951||Edward Betham Beetham||b. 1905 – d. 1979|
|1951–1956||David Loftus Morgan||b. 1904 – d. 1976|
|1956–1964||Brian Allan Marwick||b. 1908 – d. 1992|
|1964–1968||Francis Alfred Lloyd||b. 1916 – d. 2006|
In 1921 the British established Swaziland's first legislative body—a European Advisory Council (EAC) of elected white representatives mandated to advise the British high commissioner on non-Swazi affairs. In 1944, the high commissioner both reconstituted the basis and role of the EAC, and, over Swazi objections, issued a Native Authorities Proclamation constituting the paramount chief or Ingwenyama and King to the Swazis, as the British called the king, as the native authority for the territory to issue legally enforceable orders to the Swazis subject to restrictions and directions from the resident commissioner. Under pressure from royal non-cooperation this proclamation was revised in 1952 to grant the Swazi paramount chief a degree of autonomy unprecedented in British colonial indirect rule in Africa. Also in 1921, after more than 20 years of regency headed by Queen Regent Labotsibeni, Sobhuza II became Ingwenyama (lion) or head of the Swazi nation.
In the early years of colonial rule, the British expected that Swaziland would eventually be incorporated into South Africa. After World War II, however, South Africa's intensification of racial discrimination induced the United Kingdom to prepare Swaziland for independence. Political activity intensified in the early 1960s. Several political parties were formed and jostled for independence and economic development. The largely urban parties had few ties to the rural areas, where the majority of Swazis lived. The traditional Swazi leaders, including King Sobhuza II and his Inner Council, formed the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM), a political group that capitalized on its close identification with the Swazi way of life. Responding to pressure for political change, the colonial government scheduled an election in mid-1964 for the first legislative council in which the Swazis would participate. In the election, the INM and four other parties, most having more radical platforms, competed in the election. The INM won all 24 elective seats.
Leading up to independence, the INM had solidified its political base. Having done this, the INM incorporated many demands of the more radical parties, especially that of immediate independence. In 1966, the UK Government agreed to discuss a new constitution. A constitutional committee agreed on a constitutional monarchy for Swaziland, with self-government to follow parliamentary elections in 1967. Swaziland became independent on September 6, 1968. Swaziland's first post-independence elections were held in May 1972. The INM received close to 75% of the vote. The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) received slightly more than 20% of the vote which gained the party three seats in parliament.
In response to the NNLC's showing, King Sobhuza repealed the 1968 constitution on April 12, 1973 and dissolved parliament. He assumed all powers of government and prohibited all political activities and trade unions from operating. He justified his actions as having removed alien and divisive political practices incompatible with the Swazi way of life. In January 1979, a new parliament was convened, chosen partly through indirect elections and partly through direct appointment by the king.
King Sobhuza II died in August 1982, and Queen Regent Dzeliwe assumed the duties of the head of state. In 1984, an internal dispute led to the replacement of the prime minister and eventual replacement of Dzeliwe by a new Queen Regent Ntombi. Ntombi's only child, Prince Makhosetive, was named heir to the Swazi throne. Real power at this time was concentrated in the Liqoqo, a supreme traditional advisory body that claimed to give binding advice to the Queen Regent. In October 1985, Queen Regent Ntombi demonstrated her power by dismissing the leading figures of the Liqoqo. Prince Makhosetive returned from school in England to ascend to the throne and help end the continuing internal disputes. He was enthroned as Ingwenyama Mswati III on April 25, 1986. Shortly afterwards he abolished the Liqoqo. In November 1987, a new parliament was elected and a new cabinet appointed.
Mswati III is the present monarch of Swaziland since his coronation in 1986, and rules together with Queen Mother Ntombi Tfwala. In 1986 Sotsha Dlamini was appointed Prime Minister, taking over from Prince Bhekimpi. In 1987, following a premature dissolution of parliament by the king, Swaziland held its third parliamentary election under the tinkhundla traditional system. In 1988 and 1989, an underground political party, the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), criticized the king and his government, calling for 'democratic reforms'. In response to this political threat and to growing popular calls for greater accountability within government, the king and the prime minister initiated an ongoing national debate on the constitutional and political future of Swaziland. This debate produced a handful of political reforms, approved by the king, including direct and indirect voting, in the 1993 national elections. In this election, voters were registered, the constituencies were increased from 50 to 55 and the election were judged as free and fair.
The economy and the population of Swaziland continued to grow in the 1980s. The average economic growth being 3.3% annual growth between 1985 and 1993. Annual population growth was at approximately 3% during the same period. Swaziland's 1980s economy continued to be dependent on South Africa, with 90% of imports coming from South Africa and 37% of exports going to South Africa. Swaziland, along with Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa continued to be members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). State revenues were heavily dependent on the Customs Union's remittances which were between 48.3% and 67.1% between 1981 and 1987.
The 1990s saw a rise in student and labor protests pressuring the king to introduce reforms. Thus, progress toward constitutional reforms began, culminating with the introduction of the current Swaziland constitution in 2005. This happened despite objections by political activists. The current constitution does not clearly deal with the status of political parties. The first election under the new constitution, took place in 2008. Members of parliament were elected from 55 constituencies ( also known as tinkhundla ). These MPs served five year terms which ended in 2013. In 2011, Swaziland suffered an economic crisis, due to reduced SACU receipts. This led to the government of Swaziland to request a loan from neighbouring South Africa. However, the Swazi government did not agree with the conditions of the loan, which included political reforms. During this period, there was increased pressure on the Swaziland government to carry out more reforms. Public protests by civic organizations and trade unions became more common. Improvements in SACU receipts from 2012 onwards, eased the fiscal pressure on the Swazi government. The new parliament, the second since promulgation of the constitution, was elected on 20 September 2013. This saw the reappointment of Sibusiso Dlamini, by the king, as prime minister for the third time.
In 1989, Sotja Dlamini was dismissed from his position as Prime Minister on 12 July 1989 and was replaced with a former Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions(SFTU) secretary-general, Obed Dlamini. He was to be the premier until 1993 and succeeded by Prince Mbilini. During the tenure of both Obed and Mbilini there was growing labor militancy which culminated in a major general strike in 1997 led by the SFTU. Following the labor action, Prince Mbilini was replaced as Prime Minister by Sibusiso Dlamini.
On 19 April 2018, King Mswati III announced that the Kingdom of Swaziland had renamed itself the Kingdom of Eswatini to mark the 50th anniversary of Swazi independence. The new name, Eswatini, means "land of the Swazis" in the Swazi language, and was partially intended to prevent confusion with the similarly named Switzerland.