Swaziland: Land and people

Extracted from: Deane Stuart 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, 465-466.

The landlocked Kingdom of Swaziland lies on the eastern seaboard of the Southern African sub-continent, about 3º south of the Tropic of Capricorn (26º36'S, 31º31'E). Small in size (17,363km²) and compact in shape, it is almost wholly surrounded by South Africa, with a short border with Mozambique to the east. The terrain is rugged. From the grassland of highveld in he west the land falls down through the middleveld to the bushveld plains of the lowveld and then rises again to the plateau of the Lebombo Mountains. As the land falls from west to east, so temperatures rise and precipitation declines, but rainfall rises again in the Lebombos. Perennial rivers, the Komati, Umbeluzi, Great Usutu and the Ngwavuma, drain from the highlands in the west through deep gorges in the Lebombos into Delagoa Bay (Hutcheson 2008, 1165; Doveton 1936, 321).

Nearly half the population is concentrated on the rich soils of the middleveld, where population densities reach 50 inhabitants per km² (Hutcheson 2008, 1166). The main urban settlements are Mbabane, capital of the Hhohho district, with an estimated population of 73 000 people in mid-2005, and Manzini, capital of the Manzini district, with a population of 25 571 in the 1997 census. The other two administrative districts are Lubombo (capital Siteki) and Shiselweni (capital Nhlangano). The population of 1.1 million people is remarkably homogeneous, being overwhelmingly Swazi ethnically and linguistically and Christian (see Fact File for details). Adult literacy stands at 78.3 per cent for women and 80.9 per cent for men. Population growth has declined to 0.6 per cent as a result of the HIV/Aids epidemic (adult prevalence in 2007 was estimated at 26 per cent), life expectancy is low (female 41.4 yrs, male 40.4 yrs in 2005) and infant mortality is high (110/1000 in 2005). Traditionally the status of women has been low and "women have been considered as minors and denied control and ownership of assets" (Kalley 2004, 6). Economic growth has stagnated since 2000, partly due to the impact of HIV/Aids (an average of a little over two per cent a year), as has real per capita income (0.5 per cent average since the mid-1990s. As a result of high inequality (the wealthiest 10 per cent of the population obtains 43 per cent of all income) and high unemployment (40 per cent in 2008) large numbers of people live in poverty (69 per cent in 2001) and a quarter of the population required food assistance in 2007 (IMF 2008, 6, 24; Dlamini 2005, 68; Macmillan & Levin 2007, 1159).


DLAMINI, LG 2005 Socio-economic and Political Constraints on Constitutional Reform in Swaziland, Masters in Public Administration Dissertation, [www] http://etd.uwc.ac.za/index.php?module=etd&action=viewauthor&id=gen8Srv25Nme4_4327_1197279930&allowManage= [opens new window] (accessed 27 Mar 2010).

DOVETON, MD 1936 "The economic geography of Swaziland" The Geographical Journal, 88(4), [www] http://www.jstor.org/stable/1786336 [opens new window] (accessed 26 Mar 2010).

HUTCHESON, AM 2008 "Swaziland: Physical and social geography" IN Frame, I (ed) Africa South of the Sahara 2008, London, Routledge.

IMF 2008 "IMF Country Report No 08/86: Kingdom of Swaziland: Selected issues and statistical appendix", March, [www] http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.cfm?sk=21773.0 [opens new window] (accessed 26 Mar 2010).

KALLEY, J. 2004 "Interrogating the gender question in the Swaziland electoral process", EISA Election Update: Swaziland 2003 No. 2 [PDF document], Johannesburg: EISA.

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