We move south of Africa where we find this land-locked country encircled by South Africa, Eswatini. You commonly know it as Swaziland, the smallest country in Africa but one that has a lot of interesting facts to digest. Shall we begin?
10. It is a monarchy
Eswatini is Africa’s last absolute monarchy and one of the few remaining in the world. This form of government gives the King supreme authority, unimpeded by written laws, legislature or customs. Long story short, the King can do whatever he wants and the public has no right to complain about it.
For starters, political parties are banned from taking part in elections (which renders their existence pointless) and only candidates approved by chiefs loyal to the king can stand for office. For you to be a prominent leader there, you must be willing to kiss some behinds.
9. The name change from Swaziland to Eswatini
King Mswati III announced the name change to the Kingdom of eSwatini to mark 50 years since independence from British rule. The name means “place of the Swazi”. What’s interesting is that it took the country 50 years to change its name after gaining independence.
King Mswati III
“African countries on getting independence reverted to their ancient names before they were colonised. So from now on, the country will be officially be known as the Kingdom of eSwatini.”
8. The country’s wildlife
The country is not large enough to offer lots of big game experiences, but it has some 17 protected areas that are home to a very wide range of species, including the sought after ‘Big 5’. Eswatini is also the perfect place to get to grips with many smaller creatures often overlooked on safari elsewhere, and it is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Some 132 species of mammals, 500 species of birds and 111 species of reptiles and amphibians have been recorded in Eswatini.
7. Power to the rangers
Sticking with wildlife, good luck trying to be a poacher in eSwatini. Under the Swazi law, game rangers can shoot and kill poachers caught in the act. They won’t be convicted in a court of law if you try to put up a fight. This law kind of makes sense because tourism is a major source of income for the country and poachers are considered to be a hindrance. If giving soldiers fifth freedom will help them keep the poaching menace under control, so be it.
6. Longest-reigning monarch in the world
King Sobhuza II spent 82 years 253 days on the throne of the small southern African kingdom. He owes this auspicious historical footnote to the unfortunate demise of his father, King Ngwane V, aged 23 while dancing. The son was just four months old when he became king. Would you imagine that? Being a king when you can’t even crawl, let alone speak.
During his long reign, it is estimated that he had about 210 children, of which 180 survived infancy, from at least 70 wives. By the time of his death in 1982, he had more than 1,000 grandchildren.
5. Highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS
eSwatini has the highest prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS; 26% of people aged 15-49. That means over 200,000 people out of the 1.1 million population are living with the virus. The risk is even higher among pregnant women who are faced with a prevalence of 39.2% and 17,000 children are exposed to HIV infection at birth annually.
4. The Umhlanga Dance
The Umhlanga is a cultural tradition practiced in eSwatini which celebrates chastity and virginity. It attracts tens of thousands of women across the country. On the final day of the festival, the young women parade bare-chested at the royal village. The king, by tradition, is allowed to choose one of the women as a wife. However, the festival in recent years has been more about preserving cultural heritage.
However, the festival faces heavy criticism from activists who are concerned about why girls are made to attend the festival as early as 11 years of age. Also, why does the King get to see all those girls bare-chested? What kind of powers does this man have? Well…
3. King Mswati’s wives
The king currently has 15 wives and 23 children. A king’s first two wives are chosen for him by the national councilors. According to tradition, he can marry his fiancees after they have fallen pregnant proving they can bear heirs. Until then, they are termed as liphovela (brides).
2. Makhonjwa Mountains
The Makhojwa Mountains, located in South Africa and ESwatini, are formed of rocks dating as far back as 3.6 billion years. They are thought to be one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world according to the Guinness World Records.
1. Sights and Sounds of Eswatini
As mentioned earlier, tourism is the main source of revenue for the country. One should also consider admiring the beautiful scenery the country has to offer other than wildlife. Eswatini has stunning mountain scenery with rivers, waterfalls, and gorges.