1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Swaziland

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Swaziland (native name Pungwane), a country of British South Africa bounded S., W. and N. by the Transvaal, E. by the Portuguese possessions at Delagoa Bay and the Ingwavuma division of Zululand. It lies between the Drakensberg and Lebombo Mountains and is separated from the Indian Ocean by low land varying in width from 30 to 50 m. It has an area of 6536 sq. m. (being somewhat larger than Yorkshire) and a population (1904), of 85,484, of whom 898 were whites. The natives are nearly all Ama-Swazi Bantus, commonly called Swazis, and are closely allied to the Zulus.

Spurs from the Drakensberg occupy a large part of the country, which may be divided into three parallel belts running north and south. The western belt has an average altitude of about 4500 ft., and is known as the high veld. It is succeeded by the middle veld—not more than 2500 ft. above the sea, and that by the low veld—1000 ft. high, which reaches to the foot of the Lebombo Mountains. These are flat-topped, nowhere higher than 2000 ft. The country is well watered by numerous rivers, all of which discharge into Delagoa Bay. The central and southern parts are drained by the Usutu and other tributaries of the Maputa; the northern region by the Komati (q.v.) and the Umbelozi. The Umbelozi has two chief headstreams, the Black and the White Umbelozi, the White branch being the more southerly. The climate is warm but healthy save in some of the river valleys. The flora and fauna differ in no essential respects from the corresponding regions of the Transvaal and Zululand (see those articles).

Towns and Communications.—The seat of the administration is Embabaan (Mbabane), a town on a northern tributary of the Usutu 4300 ft. above the sea, 40 m. south of Barberton and 180 m. east of Johannesburg. It replaced (1904) the former capital of Bremersdorp situated in the middle veld 23 m. south-east of Embabaan, and destroyed by Boer forces during the war of 1899–1902. Pigg’s Peak and Forbes Reef are mining settlements in northern Swaziland. Hlatikulu, the chief place in southern Swaziland, is built on a plateau about 3000 ft., above the sea. Zombodi, the principal native kraal, lies about IS m. east of Embabaan.

A railway from Lourenço Marques, 47 m. long, runs through Portuguese territory to the Swaziland border at Umbelozi Poort. This line is the eastern link in the direct railway connexion designed between Johannesburg and Delagoa Bay. From Johannesburg the line runs eastward past Springs and had reached Breyten (143 m.) in 1907. A number of good roads have been constructed. There is telegraphic connexion with the Transvaal.

Industries and Trade.—The soil is generally fertile. On the high veld, where green herbage is found all the year round, large numbers of sheep and cattle are pastured. This region serves as a winter grazing ground for sheep from the Transvaal. The middle veld is suitable for grain crops as well as bananas, sugar, coffee, tea and other semi-tropical produce. Millet, maize, pumpkins and groundnuts are extensively cultivated. On the low veld cotton is grown. Some species of the cotton plant are indigenous.

Besides agriculture the only considerable industries are gold, tin and coal mining. The goldfields, situated in the north-western part of the country, are a continuation of the De Kaap (Barberton) fields. The auriferous region is stated to be about 25 sq. m. in extent. Up to the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899 the value of the gold exported from Swaziland was about £350,000. Gold mining re-started on a small scale in 1904. The output for 1906–1908 was valued at £40,000. Alluvial tin mining is carried on successfully in the neighbourhood of Embabaan, cassiterite to the value of £46,000 being exported in 1905–1907. The output for 1908–1909 was valued at £36,000. Anthracite coal of a good quality is found over a large area of the low veld. Copper is also found. All mining is carried on under concessions. Imports are chiefly food-stuffs and cotton goods; they were valued in 1906 at £38,000 and in 1909 at £47,000. Up to 1906 no statistics of the trade of the country were kept. Trade is with the Transvaal and Delagoa Bay. The abolition of monopolies in 1904 (see below History) gave an impetus to trade. Up to that date some £4,000,000 of foreign capital had been sunk in the country with very little return. A large number of Swazis find employment in the Rand gold mines.

Administration, &c.—Swaziland forms a crown colony under the government of the High Commissioner for South Africa. It is administered by a resident commissioner. Legislation is by ordinance. Roman-Dutch common law prevails except when modified by statute, the laws of the Transvaal being in force as far as applicable to the country. Native laws and customs are generally respected and the chiefs exercise civil jurisdiction over their tribesmen, subject to appeal to the resident commissioner’s court. There is a special court to deal with serious civil and criminal cases in which Europeans are concerned. Order is maintained by a special police force. Education is mainly dependent on the efforts of missionary societies, but the administration has a few schools.

Revenue is derived chiefly from a poll-tax on natives of £1 per annum, concession rents, royalties and customs. For the period 1904–1909 the revenue—apart from loans—was about £40,000 a year, the normal expenditure being approximately the same amount. Since 1904 considerable sums (e.g. £49,000 in 1909) have been spent by the administration on the expropriation of monopolies. Swaziland is a member of the South African Customs Union (see South Africa).

History.—Ama-Swazi tribes are believed to have occupied the country now known as Swaziland from the period of the invasion of South East Africa by the Bantu peoples. They were formerly called Ba-Rapuza or Barabuza after a chief under whom in the 18th century they acquired homogeneity. In the early part of the 19th century they fell under the dominion of the newly constituted Zulu nation. In 1843, the year in which the British annexed Natal and with it a part of the country hitherto ruled by the Zulus, the Barabuza, under a chief named Swazi, took advantage of the comparative weakness of the Zulu power, achieved independence and founded the present state. According to Kaffir custom they adopted the name of their deliverer. The Boers of the Transvaal were then beginning to occupy the regions adjacent to Swaziland and in 1855 the Swazis in order to get a strip of territory between themselves and the Zulus, whose power they still dreaded, ceded to the Boers the narrow strip of land north of the Pongola river now known as the Piet Retief district. The Zulus under Cetywayo claimed the ceded district as theirs and the Swazis as their subjects and for over ten years no white farmers were able to settle in the district. With the Boers the Swazis remained on friendly terms and this friendship was extended to the British on the occupation of the Transvaal in 1877. In 1879 they joined the British in the attack on the Bapedi chief Sikukuni, whom they looked upon as an ally of the Zulus.

They captured from Sikukuni certain “rain medicine,” the possession of which has since greatly increased the prestige of the paramount chief of the Swazis among the Kaffirs of South Africa. On the retrocession of the Transvaal in 1881 the independence of the Swazis was recognized by the Boers and the Pretoria convention of that year defined the boundaries of the country. By the London convention of 1884 the Transvaal again recognized the independence of Swaziland. Immediately afterwards, however, the Boers began a series of efforts to obtain control of the country. In 1886 the governor of Natal received a paper from Umbandine (Mbandini), the paramount chief of the Swazis, stating that Piet Joubert had called on him and requested him to sign a paper saying that “he and all the Swazis agreed to go over and recognize the authority of the Boer government, and have nothing more to do with the English.” On his refusal the Boers replied to him, “Why do you refuse to sign the paper? You know we defeated the English at Majuba.” The Boers further added that if the Swazis were relying on the British, they were leaning on a broken reed, and would find themselves left in the lurch. Umbandine followed up this communication with a request for British protection, but without result. Later on, in 1887, both Boers and gold prospectors of all nationalities were overrunning his country, and Umbandine asked for a British resident. This request was also refused. The Boers now determined to adopt towards Swaziland the policy which had proved so successful in Zululand. A colony of Boers settled within the Swazi territories and proclaimed “The Little Free State.” Umbandine was then at length induced to ask the Transvaal for annexation. The Transvaal applied in 1889 to Great Britain for permission to accede to this request, but the British government replied that the only intervention to which they would consent must be a dual one. Consequently a joint commission was appointed to visit Swaziland and report on the condition of things there. Sir Francis de Winton, the British commissioner, who was accompanied by Generals Joubert and Smit on behalf of the Transvaal, reported that Umbandine had already granted concessions, such as “postal, telegraphic, banking, customs,” &c., to the Transvaal, and concessions of land mining and grazing rights to various adventurers. Umbandine had in short granted concessions of every conceivable character, including exemption from taxation. A charter of self-government had also been granted (1888) to the whites in the country. In the circumstances de Winton considered a British protectorate inadvisable and impracticable. A dual control was arranged in 1890, but the convention then signed proved abortive owing to the objection of the Transvaal to join the South African Customs Union. In 1893 a further conference on the Swazi question took place between Sir Henry Loch, high commissioner for South Africa, and President Kruger, the result of which was that the administration of Swaziland, with certain reservations as to the rights of the natives, was made over to the South African Republic. In the following year six Swazi envoys visited England for the purpose of asking Queen Victoria to take Swaziland under her protection. In view, however, of the arrangement come to, this petition had to be refused. In 1894 a convention was signed between Great Britain and the Transvaal, and the Boers, in spite of the Swazi opposition, assumed administration of the country. The Boers’ object in intriguing to acquire Swaziland was not merely that of obtaining that country. They desired also to annex the coast lands to its east and thus obtain—at Kosi Bay—a seaport of their own. This object they might have attained if they had agreed to de Winton’s proposals, but Great Britain in view of the increasingly hostile attitude assumed by the Transvaal government now intervened and by annexing in 1895 Amatongaland, the region in question, blocked the Boers’ further progress towards the sea (see South Africa: History).

Swaziland suffered during the struggle between the Transvaal and Great Britain as to its destiny. Umbandine died in 1889 and had various successors. Ubanu, installed by the Boers as paramount chief in 1894, was a sanguinary despot and was compelled to flee in 1898. The principal personage in the country after Umbandine’s death was, however, his widow Naba Tsibeni, known to Europeans as the queen regent. She more than once appealed to the British to cause the Boers to respect the terms of the conventions, and before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer war in 1899 she took the side of the British. On the annexation of the Transvaal in 1901 the queen regent asked that Swaziland might be annexed also. On the cessation of hostilities a British special commissioner was sent into the country—then in a condition bordering on anarchy—and a provisional administration established. In June 1903 an order in council formally conferred the government of the country on the governor of the Transvaal (then Lord Milner). Lord Milner visited Swaziland in July 1904 and denounced “the abominable network of concessions” in which the country was entangled. On the 3rd of October following the governor issued a proclamation providing further for the administration, and for the expropriation of the concessions other than those relating to land and minerals. In September 1906 Lord Selborne, who had succeeded Lord Milner, conferred with the queen regent and her councillors on questions specially affecting the natives. A lad named Sobhuza, born about 1898, was selected as paramount chief, Naba Tsibeni, his grandmother, being confirmed as regent during his minority. In December 1906 the control of Swaziland was severed from the governorship of the Transvaal and transferred to the High Commissioner for South Africa, and in March 1907 a resident commissioner was appointed. When the Union of South Africa was established in 1910, Swaziland, with other native territories, remained under direct Imperial control.

See A. M. Miller, “Swaziland,” in Journ. Roy. Col. Inst. (1900), vol. xxxi., and “Swaziland: its agricultural and pastoral future,” in Transvaal Agricultural Journ., vol. iv. (1906); T. R. jones, “Notes on the Geology of West Swaziland” in Geol. Mag. (1899), vol. vi. Colonial office reports on the country have been issued annually since 1908. Consult also the Colonial Office List issued yearly. In it are cited the Blue Books dealing with Swaziland. For history see also Transvaal: Bibliography.