Cultural Overview

At the top of the Swazi social hierarchy are the King and Queen Mother. The King (iNgwenyama) is leader of the Swazi nation who rules with the assistance of the Queen Mother (iNdlovukati). According to tradition, the King presides over the highest court and is the only person who can assign the death penalty in a crime (Kuper, 1961, p. 55). He commands the army, allocates land, and has access to the royal cattle herds.

The Queen Mother presides over the second-highest court, but her councillors may serve on the highest court and her hut can be a sanctuary for those sentenced to death. Despite the King's control of the army, the official commander-in-chief may reside in the Queen Mother's village and she may have her own regiments under the control of local princes. Furthermore, she serves as a check against his misuse of national wealth. The sacred objects of the Swazi nation are always in her possession.

It was after the sudden death of his father, King Bunu, that the child Sobhuza was selected as his successor in 1899 (Kuper, 1978, p. 18). However, he could not assume that role until he reached majority. Queen Mother Gwamile, his grandmother, served as queen regent until

Sobhuza was installed as King in 1921. Until her death in 1925 at almost 100 years old, she was consulted on various matters. During her regency, Queen Mother Gwamile set up a fund, derived from taxes of employed Swazi men, to repurchase land alienated during Boer and British incursions during the 19 th century. She had a tremendous impact on the Swazi people as Queen Mother.

When Sobhuza was installed as King, his mother Lomawa became iNdlovukati. During his long reign of 61 years, which encompassed three fourths of the colonial period, he survived three Queen Mothers including his mother, his mother's sister, and a wife, after his mother's sister's death. When he died, his wife's sister and cowife served a Queen Mother. He was the longest reigning monarch in the world at the time of his death.

As a traditionalist, Sobhuza II was unrelenting in his resistance to Indirect Rule and dual political structures. As a consequence, alternative political structures did not emerge until the eve of independence, which occurred in 1968. However, the Swazi National Council, used as a vehicle to squelch the emergence of political organizations, was a traditional structure expanded to the national level and was more democratic. The political leaders who did emerge in the 1960s had strong ties to the royal family.

When Sobhuza saw that the British government was intractable in its demand for a Westminister-style constitution, he formed his own political party, the Imbokodvo National Movement (I.N.M.), which worked in tandem with the major white settlers' political organization, the United Swaziland Association, and won Swaziland's first national election in 1964. After sordid legal maneuvers, the King decided to suspend the Swazi constitution and institute a more traditional form of government in 1973, at which time all political parties were banned.

The Swazi homestead, which exhibits a scattered settlement pattern, is composed of the homestead head, his mother (if she is alive), his brothers and unmarried sisters, and his wives and nonadult children (Ngubane, 1983, pp. 98-99). All adult males have their own dwelling and have access to land and cattle allocated by the chief. A wife, upon marrying into a homestead, forms her own household. The formation of new households internally led to the eventual fissure of the homestead as it increased in size.

Insofar as productive activities are concerned, a wife is allocated land and has access to cattle. Provided that she has children, they will assist her in cultivating maize or sorghum and vegetables for their sustenance. Usually wives do the weeding, husbands the plowing, and everyone is involved in the harvesting. The homestead provides social security against the vicissitudes of wage employment and small business enterprise (Ngubane, 1983, p. 113).

Like Botswana and Lesotho, Swaziland has functioned as a labor reserve to South Africa. However, of the BLS countries, as the three are called, Swaziland sends the smallest number of male migrants to the South Africa gold mines. With its arable land and mineral resources, the sizable white settler population sought to exploit Swazi labor domestically. The asbestos, iron, and coal mines, and the sugar, cotton, and pineapple industries emerged as major employers, particularly of males.

The Swazi are patrilineal, prefer patrilocal residence, and prescribe clan exogamy (Kuper, 1967, p. 86). They permit cross-cousin marriage (Kuper, 1967, p. 104), practice the levirate and sororate, and allow woman-woman marriage according to customary law. In civil marriage, under Roman-Dutch law, only one marriage is permitted and any previous customary marriages by an individual are invalidated.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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