Despite the continuation of political protests, Swaziland is ruled by one of the world’s last surviving monarchies. Its population is largely homogenous, composed principally of a single ethnic group (Swazis). The nation is highly dependent upon South Africa economically. The prevalence of HIV is the highest in the world and the life expectancy of Swazis has plummeted dramatically.
Timeline of Major Events
|1907||Swaziland becomes a British High Commission territory.|
|1921||King Sobhuza II is crowned king.|
|1968||Swaziland receives formal independence and adopts a new constitution. The new parliament, a proportion of whose members are appointed by the monarch, is given authority.|
|1973||King Sobhuza suspends the constitution and bans political parties.|
|1977||Traditional tribal communities replace the parliamentary system.|
|1982||King Sobhuza dies.|
|1983||The People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) is formed.|
|1986||Prince Makhosetive is crowned and becomes King Mswati III. King Mswati dissolves the Supreme Council of the State.|
|1990||Pudemo calls for electoral reform.|
|1996||Pudemo begins a campaign of civil disobedience in response to government failure to introduce constitutional change.|
Three years of erratic rainfall lead the prime minister to declare a humanitarian crisis.
UN AIDS envoy announces that Swaziland has the world's highest rate of HIV infection.
|2005||King Mswati signs a new constitution.|
|2007||Thousands protest for democratic reforms. Many boycott the 2008 election.|
|2011||As the economic crisis worsens, the International Monetary Fund designates Swaziland's budget crisis as "critical". The government struggles to pay salaries of public sector workers.|
69% of the population lives below the poverty line.
44% of women participate in the labor force.
Swaziland’s economy is highly dependent upon South Africa’s: 90% of Swaziland’s imports come from South Africa and 60% of its exports are sent there. Despite the diversification of the Swazi’s manufacturing sector, 70% of the population remains employed in subsistence agriculture. The global financial crisis was devastating to Swaziland, and the country is in dire need of international aid. However, a failure to curb spending has prevented Swaziland from qualifying. The country is now seeking aid from South Africa.
As the economic crisis worsens, many Swazi men have left the country in search of work. Women are left to feed and raise the children on their own. This can prove very difficult since cultural practices prevent women from owning land. Furthermore, Swazi women are denied sexual and reproductive rights, including the right to refuse sex, to insist on condom use, or determine the number of children they will bear.
Public Health Concerns
Foreigners retain control over much of the country’s wealth and so the majority of Swazis live in rural areas in extreme poverty and are employed in the unskilled labor market. They are highly vulnerable to malnutrition and even starvation as a result of overgrazing, drought, soil depletion and floods. Over a quarter of Swazis were on food aid in 2006-07.
Additionally, Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world— over 25% of the population is infected with HIV.