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6 September 2008

On this day in history: Swaziland becomes independent, 1968

Following the end of the Second Boer War (aka the Anglo-Boer War) in 1902, British troops entered the territories occupied by the Swazi people and attached it to the defeated Transvaal Colony as an imperial possession. Four years later, the British Government granted Transvaal limited self-government and set up a separate colonial administration for Swaziland. A resident commissioner governed the region according to orders issued by the British High Commissioner for South Africa.

When it came to making decrees High Commissioner consulted with the resident commissioner, the Swazi royal family and the European settlers. This latter group gained a degree of democratic representation in 1921, when the authorities established the European Advisory Council, who were mandated to advise the commissioner on non-Swazi affairs. In 1944, the British attempted to set up a puppet monarchy, giving the 'Paramount Chief' (as they called the king) authority over his people to make such decrees as he was told by the resident commissioner.

The lack of co-operation from King Sobhuza II, resulted in the British giving him unprecedented autonomy within their African possessions in 1952 and started preparing the Swazi people for independence. In the early 1960s political parties started to emerge in Swaziland, the most powerful of which was the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM) convened by the traditional Swazi leaders including the king. When elections for a legislative council were held in 1964, the INM won all twenty-four elective seats.

Following their election victory the INM adopted many of the more radical policies of the other parties they defeated, including a call for immediate independence. Following talks with the British government, the INM secured an agreement for Swaziland to become a constitutional monarchy with full independence being granted following parliamentary elections in 1967. Consequently, on 6th September 1968 Swaziland became an independent state.

The INM also won the first elections following independence in 1972. Nevertheless, a good showing by the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, who received around 20% of the vote, resulted in the King Sobhuza dissolving parliament and repealing the 1968 constitution. Swaziland became an absolute monarchy until 1979 when he established a new parliament of elected representatives and his own appointees.