Swaziland: The 1964 election

Updated July 2008

The inability of Swaziland's colonial government, the Swaziland National Council (SNC) representing the Swazi traditional aristocracy and the European Advisory Council representing the white settlers to agree on a constitutional order for the territory resulted in Britain imposing a solution in May 1963 (Booth 1983, 66; Levin 1997, 70). A Queen's Commissioner was to be vested with executive power, mineral rights and the right to appoint four of the 28 legislative seats; eight legislative seats would be "elected" through the traditional tinkulndla (chiefdoms grouped for age regiment mobilisation), eight Swazis would be elected on a national roll, four whites would be elected on a white roll and four whites would be elected on a national roll (Levin 1997, 71).

The immediate context of the election was a wave of strikes in 1962/63 and a general strike in June 1963 that culminated in the imposition of a state of emergency, the shipping in of a battalion of British troops from Kenya and the curtailment of trade union activity (Booth 1983, 32; Macmillan 1989, 306, 1985, 658; Levin 1997, 66-68).

In January 1964 in opposition to the democratic aspects of the imposed constitution and its marginalisation of his position King Sobhuza called a referendum, which, though boycotted by the political parties, was overwhelmingly (98.87%) rejected; the British disregarded the referendum and decided to press ahead with the election which was scheduled for 23-25 June 1964 (Levin 1997, 72; Macmillan 1985, 659). The King and the SNC formed the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM) in April 1964 to contest the election (Macmillan 1989, 306). The INM's platform focused on assistance to peasants, labelled the other parties as "'foreign', divisive and hostile to Swazi 'tradition'" and sought to keep traditional land tenure unchanged while vesting mineral rights, like land, in the hands of the monarchy (Macmillan 1989, 306; Booth 1983, 66).

The settlers formed the United Swaziland Association (USA) to protect their interests and property rights (which had already been guaranteed by the King), while supporting INM on the land and mineral issues (Booth 1983, 66, 67; Levin 1997, 73). The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) had formed an alliance with the striking workers and had called the general strike (Levin 1997, 67). As a result the leadership of the NNLC was bogged down in litigation as a result of trumped up charges, its organizational ability was seriously weakened and it was all but bankrupted (Levin 1997, 70). The NNLC articulated the interests of the emerging middle classes and labour and argued for land reform and for mineral rights to be vested in the government (Booth 1983, 67; Levin 1997, 73).

The INM had considerable resources at its disposal, the prestige that Sobhuza had accumulated through his astute dealing with the British, the persuasive and coercionary power of the hierarchy of chiefs and the support of capitalist interests and were able to persuade the voters that the interests of the King and the survival of the nation were one and the same (Macmillan 1989, 306; Levin 1997, 72, 73). The INM's victory was overwhelming for it won all eight elective seats with 85.47% of the vote, the SNC supplied them to the eight tinkhundla seats and they won one of the white seats; their allies, the USA, took a further six seats (So Booth (1983, 66); Levin (1997, 74) does not give the distribution for the white seats but notes that Carl Todd won his white seat as an INM member. Commentators such as Christian Potholm (1966, 316) who assert that the USA took all the white seats are almost surely wrong).

Despite the odds stacked against them the NNLC managed to garner 12% of the vote, though this did not translate into any seats in the legislature (Booth 1983, 66). The NNLC support was concentrated in the urban areas such as Mbabane and Manzini, but the constituency boundaries had been drawn so as to overwhelm its support base with rural voters (Macmillan 1989, 306; Potholm 1966, 316).


Contesting parties: Imbokodvo National Movement (INM), Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), Swaziland Democratic Party (SDP), Swaziland Independence Front (SIF), Swaziland Progressive Party (SPP, 2 factions), Swaziland Independence Front (SIF), United Swaziland Association (USA).
Leaders: Prince Makhosini Dlamini (INM); Dr Ambrose P Zwane (NNLC); John J Nquku (SPP) and 0B Mabuza (SSP faction), Simon Sishayi Nxumalo (SDP).
Number of seats: 24.
Results: The INM won 85% of the vote and a total of 17 seats (including one white seat); the NNLC came second with 12%, but won no seats. The SPP and the SDP between themselves received the balance of the vote and no seats. The USA won six of the eight white seats, the INM one; it is not clear who won the other white seat.
Percentage poll: No data.


BOOTH, AR 1983 Swaziland: Tradition and Change in a Southern African Kingdom, Boulder, New York, 1983.

LEVIN, R 1997 When the sleeping grass awakens: land and power in Swaziland, Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg.

MACMILLAN, H 1985 "Swaziland: Decolonisation and the Triumph of 'Tradition'", The Journal of Modern African Studies, 23(4), December, [www] http://www.jstor.org/stable/160683 [opens new window] (accessed 10 Mar 2010).

MACMILLAN, H 1989 "A Nation Divided? The Swazi in Swaziland and the Transvaal, 1865-1986" IN Vail, L (ed) The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, University Of California Press, [www] http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft158004rs& chunk.id=d0e7328&toc.depth=1&toc.id=d0e7328&brand=eschol [opens new window] (accessed 10 Mar 2010).

MACMILLAN, H & LEVIN, R 2007 "Swaziland: Recent History" IN Frame, I (ed) Africa South of the Sahara 2008, Routledge.

POTHOLM, CP 1966 "Changing Political Configurations in Swaziland", Journal of Modern African Studies, 4(3), November, 313-322, [www] http://www.jstor.org/stable/159202 [opens new window] (accessed 10 Mar 2010).